Depending on where you look, Jalen McDaniels was either a three or four star recruit coming out of Federal Way High School in Washington. He wasn’t on the NBA radar when he got to San Diego State, but after a strong second half of his freshman season, McDaniels entered his name into the 2018 NBA Draft. He didn’t hire an agent and ultimately decided to return to school for his sophomore season to improve his draft stock. It worked. After not receiving an invite to the 2018 NBA Combine, McDaniels was one of 66 players invited to this year’s iteration. It all culminated in his being selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 52nd selection of the 2019 NBA Draft.
McDaniels is a long, wiry forward. He’s about 6’10” with a wingspan that’s slightly over seven feet. He is coordinated and athletic, but he’s thin as a rail. His first priority in the NBA will be adding strength to his 191 pound frame. Doing so will be paramount to his success at the professional level.
McDaniels length and athleticism give him the potential to be a disruptive defender. He didn’t block as many shots as you’d hope and his lack of weight and strength cause him to get pushed around by more physical covers, but added bulk could alleviate those concerns. He did generate a good amount of steals at the collegiate level and has some impressive chase down blocks on his highlight reel.
Offensively, McDaniels needs to fine tune his shot to solidify his place in the NBA. He was a non shooter when he got to San Diego State, connecting on just four of 19 3-point attempts as a freshman. He clearly put in a ton of work over the offseason, upping his 3-point attempts to 75 and connecting on a much more respectable 32% of them. That’s still not good enough to be considered a threat at the NBA level, but it’s trending in the right direction. McDaniels’ form looks solid and he was a good free throw shooter in both of his collegiate seasons. The outside shot should come in time.
As surprising as it may be, Jalen MacDaniels’ best attribute is probably his passing. He averaged 2.7 assists per 40 minutes as a sophomore and more than doubled his assist rate from year one to year two. His vision from the high post is outstanding; he’ll catch passes at the free throw line and find open shooters on the weak side with perfect passes. He won’t be asked to post up much at the NBA level, but when he did in college, he was good at hitting shooters and cutters with perfect timing and ball placement. He’s also good at finding runners and trailers as a ball handler in transition.
With Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Miles Bridges, and now P.J. Washington on the Hornets, there won’t be much pressure for McDaniels to contribute right away, and he’ll likely spend a good bit of next season with the Greensboro Swarm. That’ll give him time to hit the weight room and improve his shot so he can be ready to contribute in 2020.