A lanky 6’10 combo forward out of San Diego State, Jalen McDaniels poses one of the bigger question marks when it comes to NBA Draft prospects. The first thing you notice when watching McDaniels play is his incredible athletic ability followed shortly by his excellent size. When watching SDSU play, McDaniels is seemingly involved in every play at both ends of the court and projects to have some true two-way potential.
McDaniels is an excellent perimeter defender for his size whose only real knock on that side of the ball is that at times he can play with a bit TOO much energy. Prone to picking up tons of fouls, McDaniels needs to learn how to control his play on that side of the ball a bit better to truly be an effective defender in the NBA. His size and athleticism alone make him a nightmare matchup defensively for most 3’s and 4’s in the modern NBA.
Speaking of his athleticism, take a look at how effortlessly and quickly he gets up:
McDaniels entered the NBA draft last season after his redshirt freshman year but elected to return to college after finding that NBA teams felt he needed a bit more work. Despite having a great motor and showing the ability to impact the game on both ends of the court, teams felt that McDaniels lacked consistent outside shooting along with a relatively slender frame. McDaniels has made strides in both areas this year as he has upped his 3 point shooting to a respectable 31.7% while adding a little bulk to his Durant-esque frame.
Though a raw talent offensively, Jalen McDaniels possesses a rare blend of size and athleticism that you simply cannot teach. Although he will never turn into an elite shooter from deep (or scorer in general for that matter), McDaniels defends with tons of energy and is a willing passer on the offensive end. Given his skill set, he projects to be a solid role player for years to come in the NBA.
Jalen McDaniels NBA Draft Projections
Most mock drafts currently have McDaniels going anywhere from the mid-first round to the early second round. Our own Jonathan Adams has him going 29th overall to the Raptors in his latest mock draft. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has McDaniels going 33rd to the Suns in his latest mock draft.
On the other hand, NBADraft.net has McDaniels going 20th overall to the Utah Jazz in their latest mock draft. It is safe to say that analysts are unsure of McDaniels’ future and the variance from a near lottery pick to the second round is fairly large.
At his best, McDaniels projects to be a hyper-athletic two-way pest and while his ceiling likely far outweighs the 20th overall pick, he also has the potential to be a massive bust. Extremely raw in terms of pure skill, McDaniels won’t be able to rely on his athleticism like he has so far and instead will need to take some major steps forward in terms of his basketball IQ to enjoy success at the next level.
For what it might be worth, McDaniels has flashed a greatly improved skillset around the basket this year, check out the raw (but effective) post move he uses in his second bucket:
NBA Player Comparison
Jalen McDaniels has mostly drawn comparisons to Jonathan Isaac. The two share extremely similar builds and typically relied on their athleticism at the college level. Isaac has taken some major strides this season, especially with regards to his defense and has played a major role for the young Magic on the year. McDaniels has also drawn comparisons to Brandon Ingram given their tall and slender makeup but truthfully, Ingram is a much more natural pure scorer whereas McDaniels projects more as a high-energy two-way defender.