Jalen McDaniels, the No. 52 pick in the 2019 draft, is coming off a rookie season that was just starting to get rolling when the regular season was suspended. Credit should go to Mitch Kupchak for landing the 6-foot-10 big man so late in the draft. It’s rare for players selected near McDaniels position to amount to much in the league.
Jalen showed well in 31 G-League games with the Greensboro Swarm by averaging 15.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.9 steals, and 1.1 blocks. Most encouraging, he hit 37.6 percent of his 3.8 three-point attempts per game. He played fairly well with the Hornets, too. In his 16 NBA games as a rookie he averaged 5.6 points and 4.1 rebounds in 18.3 minutes per game, including 37.5 percent from three. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, but context is everything. Players drafted at No. 52 rarely pan out. While McDaniels future is still uncertain, he’s already shown enough potential to demonstrate he can belong in the NBA.
To show what a potentially good pick Kupchak made in McDaniels at No. 52, let’s see how the five players drafted between No. 50 and No. 54 from 2014 to 2018 have panned out thus far with their career games played in parenthesis.
2014 - Alec Brown (0), Thanasis Antetokounmpo (22), Vasilije Micić (0), Alessandro Gentile (0), Nemanja Dangubić (0)
2015 - Marcus Eriksson (0), Tyler Harvey (0), Satnam Singh Bhamara (0), Sir’Dominic Pointer (0), Dani Díez (0)
2016 - Georges Niang (157), Ben Bentil (3), Joel Bolomboy (18), Petr Cornelie (0), Kay Felder (58)
2017 - Mathias Lessort (0), Monte Morris (158), Edmond Sumner (55), Kadeem Allen (47), Alec Peters (20)
2018 - Alize Johnson (31), Tony Carr (51), Vince Edwards (2), Devon Hall (11), Shake Milton (60)
Wow. Just look at how many of those late second round picks literally (or essentially) have done nothing in their NBA careers thus far. Jalen McDaniel played in 16 games during his pandemic-shortened rookie season, already giving him more career games played than 14 of the 25 players selected in previous drafts listed above.
As incredible as this is to believe, nine of the 10 players drafted between 2014 and 2015 have appeared in zero NBA games, with Thanasis Antetokounmpo as the only player to take the court and he hasn’t amounted to much. Georges Niang was drafted in 2016 and has carved out a consistent role with the Utah Jazz while Kay Felder played 58 games over his first two seasons but is out of the league and playing in China. Between 2014 and 2016, only Niang has made any real impact.
The 2017 draft class included Monte Morris who is playing well for the Denver Nuggets, Edmond Sumner who played 31 games and averaged 14.4 minutes for the Indiana Pacers this season, and Kadeem Allen who appeared in limited minutes in 10 games for the New York Knicks.
The 2018 class has three players who played for their NBA clubs this year in Shake Milton who is exceeding expectations along with Alize Johnson and Devon Hall who saw very limited action.
The summary of all of this is that only three of the 25 players drafted between No. 50 and No. 54 in this five-year sample size have made an impact in the NBA - Georges Niang, Monte Morris, and Shake Milton. With his promising rookie season now behind him, Jalen McDaniels is looking to join the ranks of those rare exceptions who are drafted late in the second round but still carve out a meaningful NBA career.
Kudos to him for the solid start to his career, and kudos to Mitch Kupchak for finding him.