Atlanta Hawks urged to pursue 25-year-old rising star forward

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

The Atlanta Hawks hit the All-Star break having lost eight of their last 13 contests leaving them one game below .500 at 29-30. They also have the third-toughest remaining strength of schedule, per, so there is plenty of work to be done when they return from the weekend of festivities.

Filling minutes on the wings, at the combo forward spots, continues to be the Hawks’ biggest need,” explained Dan Favale of Bleacher Report. “Saddiq Bey‘s arrival solves some of the conundrum, but not all of it.”

Atlanta sent out five second-round picks in total – three to the Detroit Pistons and two to the Golden State Warriors for Bey.

But Favale looks a little further down the road to find that perfect minute-filler.

“Deepening that part of the rotation can be expensive. Poaching 25-year-old Jalen McDaniels from the Philadelphia 76ers shouldn’t be,” Favale asserts. “His own outside shooting is rickety, but he has improved his off-the-dribble moves and decision-making in space and can be shifted up and down the positional spectrum on defense.”

The Philadelphia 76ers acquired McDaniels in a four-team trade that also involved the Charlotte Hornets, New York Knicks, and Portland Trail Blazers.

McDaniels, 25, is in the midst of a breakout campaign.

Jalen McDaniels could be an intriguing free-agent option for the Atlanta Hawks

Standing 6-foot-9 and listed at a wiry 205 pounds, the combo forward is averaging career-highs with 10.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.1 steals seeing his numbers rise right along with his playing time this season.

He has seen his three-point efficiency drop as his volume has increased. But McDaniels, whose younger brother Jaden McDaniels is also having a breakout for the Minnesota Timberwolves, knocked down 38% of his triples over an entire season in 2022, albeit on modest volume with just 2.0 deep looks per game.

“The dribbling,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers (a former Hawks point guard) said after Philly’s win over the Houston Rockets on February 13, per Ky Carlin of The Sixers Wire. “His ability to attack closeouts under control and make plays. We didn’t know that. We did know about his corner 3 shooting in the three or four days not just in games, but watching him in our workouts, he loves the corners, so that’s another addition.”

McDaniels is still connecting on 35% of his looks from the corners and, with his size, would offer a nice size-skill blend the Hawks do not currently have.

Second-year forward Jalen Johnson is more of a big (and playmaker) than a spot-up shooter.

Rivers also praised McDaniels’ ability to keep possessions alive with his rebounding ability and the youngster’s speed.

“I knew he was fast, I didn’t know he was this fast,” Rivers said. “He can really fly.

McDaniels described himself as an “instinctual player” which could also be interpreted as slightly raw. That could prove to be an issue should head coach Nate McMillan is still in charge – McMillan is on record as saying he does not have time to develop players in-season.

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But, with speculation there may be a new head coach in place by the time the 2023-24 season rolls around, McDaniels could still make for an interesting target for the Hawks.