Jalen McDaniels isn’t a spectacular player. He keeps a pretty low profile on the court and won’t frequently wow you with breathtaking athleticism or transcendent skill. But he was the 52nd pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. You’re generally not even going to get an NBA player that deep in the draft. Not only did the Charlotte Hornets find a player there; they found a solid rotational piece.
McDaniels didn’t look like he was going to be a major contributor this season with the acquisition of Kelly Oubre and the possible health of Gordon Hayward. Miles Bridges was always going to get some minutes on the wing as well, and he and PJ Washington were slated to soak up all of the minutes at the four. Still, with all that established talent in front of him, McDaniels was able to make it on the floor for 55 contests, starting two.
He averaged 6.1 points per game while shooting 38% from three and chipping in solid passing and rebounding numbers. He had one of the lowest usage rates on the team, but his job is not to be a high usage player. He was a reliable 3-point shooter, particularly above the break. He’s a good finisher with the basketball and he’s a heady player that makes the right pass.
But McDaniels made his biggest impact on the defensive side of the floor. The Hornets were 5.2 points per 100 possessions better on the defensive end with McDaniels on the floor, which ranks in the 87th percentile league wide according to Cleaning the Glass. His length is disruptive both in passing lanes and around the basket, and his defensive effort and consistency was refreshing for a team that didn’t always display those traits.
In all, it was a successful third season for the former second round pick. He has stabilized as a solid depth wing/forward that can knock down shots and effectively defend most positions. A quintessential 3&D player, if you will.
The Hornets have a $1.9 million team option on McDaniels for next season, and unless they badly need a roster spot for some reason, it’s likely they pick it up. McDaniels isn’t likely to make waves, but he’s more than worth his salary and at 24 years old, there’s still plenty of room to grow.