Jaden McDaniels was more like the last rookie version of the last season, making a huge impact on the defense as well as contributing to the offensive.
A disappointing start to the campaign is in the rearview mirror of a 21-year-old.
The key to the turn? Wear a headband.
Okay, not really, but Wolves have been winning games and McDaniels has been playing well since changing his look a few games ago and fans having fun with the social media switch.
“I looked like that in college. I kind of liked it a little, ”McDaniels said. “I see things like someone was like a 3-0 story with Jaden with a headband. It was great to see little memes and stuff. ”
What’s the real answer?
“Moving to the second squad,” suggested Timberwolves coach Chris Finch.
And he is probably right.
In seven games since joining the bench, McDaniels has averaged 8.6 points, five rebounds and an interception on 48 percent of shots from the floor. He has only been foul in one of these bouts after committing four or more fouls in each of his last seven starts.
McDaniels said he felt “pretty comfortable” pulling himself away from the pine tree.
“I just come in, still being myself, whether I start or leave the bench,” McDaniels said. “I’m just trying to produce what I do and keep doing it at a high level.”
His bench fit, at least for now, makes sense. McDaniels continues to be a top perimeter defender. Opponents say this to Timberwolves all the time. The Suns’ Chris Paul walked over to the bench to celebrate during a recent game at Target Center. Finch ranked McDaniels’ defense with the ball at top five this season.
But when McDaniels started the game, he was compared to the other team’s top perimeter scorer. These players are constantly causing the referees to blow their whistle.
“I don’t know what percentage, most of his fouls are not fouls. He moves his legs. He’s there and they’re not fouls, ”Finch said. “As a young player versus a star player or an active player, he doesn’t get the benefit of doubt. He will work it.
You see it in games when Patrick Beverly, a seasoned veteran with a reputation as a die-hard defender, harass a star player without a whistle. Beverly gets away with about 50 percent more contacts than McDaniels would ever have. According to Finch, McDaniels will eventually receive a defense license. But now he is gone. Too often he headed to the bench with two or three quick fouls before he could catch the rhythm.
Coming off the bench, Minnesota can better choose when to give the second-year striker outstanding defensive matches. McDaniels was whistled for just one foul in Minnesota’s 110–96 game over New Orleans on Monday, which he admitted was “super good.”
“Some nights I could get the whistle more often than others, so just watching a movie about my fouls and the like is what I do and I continue to be strong on defense,” McDaniels said.
The lack of rhythm due to foul problems and Minnesota’s general lack of ball movement early in the season also hampered the forward. This is where the transition to the second block also paid dividends. With the second squad, McDaniels is more involved in the attack due to the movement of the ball and the lack of dominant attack options. He looks more comfortable and confident.
“I think to be honest with Jaden, he is a much better player than he played at the beginning of the season. I don’t think that was necessarily a reflection of him or his preparation for the season, ”Finch said. “I literally just think that some guys have become victims when your team doesn’t have a good rhythm, it’s not often used in the starting lineup. In any case, he is not a very frequently used player. One of the things we love about him is that he can play very well without the ball in his hands and then he can shoot, cut or set the floor very well. He could probably find people or play a little more, but that’s what will come to him as he grows and our team develops.
“For me, this is literally the result of the fact that when we are going to play better, he will play better. He’s just a really, really good glue specialist for what we do there, and that certainly isn’t a blow to him. He just fills in a lot of gaps. ”