Full NBA Draft scouting report on Jaden McDaniels: his strengths, weaknesses, and potential fit on the Atlanta Hawks.
The Atlanta Hawks are nearly set when it comes to young talent, and hitting on another pick in the 2020 NBA Draft would only help solidify their young core. They can afford to take a chance on a boom-or-bust prospect, of which this class has plenty of.
Washington forward Jaden McDaniels might be the best example of that. The top prospect out of Federal Way High School (7th on the ESPN 100), had a pretty miserable freshman season in Seattle.
McDaniels was seen as a likely lottery pick before the season began and is now a fringe first-round pick after posting ugly shooting splits and a turnover and foul rate that would scare any GM. Still, he has a ton of potential thanks to his size and raw upside.
Here we’ll be giving a full scouting report of McDaniels, finding his strengths and weaknesses before looking at some film.
Jaden McDaniels Scouting Report
Size and speed
We won’t know officially until when/if the NBA Combine happens, but McDaniels is somewhere between 6’10 and 6’11. For someone who projects best as a small forward, that’s great size and certainly appealing.
He’s not only fast for his size, he’s flat-out fast for a basketball player. With the ball in his hands, he’s a truly tough cover, especially in transition. He can blaze past opponents without breaking a sweat. Off the ball, he’s just as dangerous, able to fly through screens and around the three-point arch.
McDaniels runs like a guard with the height of a power forward or center, which will create fun (and effective) mismatches in the NBA.
A big reason McDaniels struggled in college was his jumper not falling. While it’s hard to call his shot a positive because of that, he certainly looked good shooting the ball and has all the tools needed to be a solid shooter in the league.
The lanky forward has a high, quick release that’s great for both pull-up and spot-up situations. He turned to the former a lot as a freshman (with varying success) and has the mechanics down to a tee. He just needs to find net more often, which there’s a pretty good chance of with the right development team.
Switchability on defense
McDaniels is not an elite defender by any stretch of the imagination but can certainly be seen as a positive on that end of the court thanks again to his size and athleticism. He can realistically guard positions 2-4 and teams can be confident about him switching onto a point guard or center in a pinch.
His speed translates well laterally on the perimeter and his nearly 7-foot wingspan makes him, at the very least, a passable defender in the paint. He blocked over a shot per game as a freshman.
The true downside of his great speed to size ratio is his frame, with the 19-year-old weighing in at just 184 pounds. He’s lighter than the 6-foot-2 point guard Tre Jones and is going to be one of the lightest players to be drafted in 2020.
That frame Hurts him on both ends of the court, as while McDaniels can use blistering speed to get to the rim, he struggles to finish through even the lightest contact. Strong forwards and even larger guards will be able to push him off his base on D, making him play catchup defense on nearly every one-on-one scenario. He led the Pac-12 in fouls thanks in large part of him having to fight extra hard to avoid being abused.
He’ll have the time and resources to put on muscle at the next level, which would help him in certain areas but hurt some of his current strengths.
McDaniels is the epitome of a raw prospect, which is part of what makes him such a fascinating player. He has true bursts of elite play on both ends of the court but rarely put them together in a single game over the course of the season.
He can do just about everything you’d want out of a modern NBA small forward, but whether or not he can do it at a high enough level is yet to be determined.
Despite often working as the primary ball-handler in fast-break situations, McDaniels doesn’t have a great feel for when or who to kick it out too. He can often telegraph passes or just straight-up make bad decisions out of triple threat, part of the reason he averaged over 3 turnovers per game.
Full game versus Baylor (11/09/19):
What to watch for:
- Handle and speed in transition.
- Interior help D (example – 21:17)
- Off-ball speed and three-point shot (21:44)
- Coast-to-coast potential and bag of tricks to get to the paint (59:31)
- How his wiry arms making an impact on plays even when he doesn’t get a steal or block.
- Lack of physicality on both ends (1:15:13).
Full season highlights via Swish
Fit with the Atlanta Hawks:
McDaniels fits the mold of a positionless athlete that the Atlanta Hawks don’t really have right now. While they really need to add more established shooters to play next to Trae Young, McDaniels could be a fun project pick for Lloyd Piece to work on.
He can help them push the tempo which they obviously want to do, and he could be a solid wing defender, of which teams can never have enough of.
The Atlanta Hawks shouldn’t be considering him with their top pick, but if they happen to trade down into the late teens or early twenties, they could certainly do worse.
The Bottom Line:
Jaden McDaniels is a very low floor, very high ceiling player, and could be one of the best players in the class as easy as he could be out of the league in a few seasons. The talent is there, and he might need a good team situation and a year or two in the G-League to fully develop into what he’s capable of becoming.
Should the Atlanta Hawks draft Jaden McDaniels?