Jalen McDaniels wasn’t far away from being Mr. Irrelevant. The Charlotte Hornets scooped him up with the 52nd overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft. It’s not a place where you find much NBA talent. The Hornets found some tough. McDaniels was an instant contributor as a rookie and has steadily improved each year since then.
McDaniels enters year four looking to cement himself as part of the team’s future and earn some money. He’s in a contract year, and to this point he’s pretty well established as at least a role player. He plays good defense, gets a lot of steals and blocks, makes heady plays on offense, and shoots the three ball well. He’s not a great ball handler, which keeps him in an off ball role, but he’s still a good offensive connector and effective player.
He was a pretty steady rotation piece for the Hornets last season when healthy. That’ll probably hold true in year four, especially with some minutes at the four that need to be soaked up. He, along with Cody Martin, function as the team’s 3&D threats on the bench, and their willingness to mix it up is going to key for a Hornets bench that’s going to have to outwork opponents to be successful. We’ve also seem play extended minutes with the starters, and he has a history of being a pesky defender against team’s stronger players.
You’d like to see McDaniels add a little bit of wiggle and scoring punch to his game, but I don’t know if that’s going to come. He shows flashes of savvy with turnarounds near the basket, and he’s made a couple of nice plays on the ball in preseason, but he hasn’t proven that he can do that at a consistent level. The Hornets will be looking for scoring, and ideally they’d get an extra two-to-three points per game from McDaniels if he can play more assertively.
Jalen McDaniels should get steady burn this season. He’s a prototypical Steve Clifford player given his size and length for his position and his willingness to defend. He’s still only 24 years old, so he has plenty of room to grow, and it’s not entirely impossible he takes a notable step in year four in a new situation with a new coaching staff.