Being overlooked nationally is nothing new for the Minnesota Timberwolves and their fanbase. The team’s track record isn’t great — before 2022, they made it to the NBA Playoffs once since 2005. I get it; the Timberwolves have had issues getting to the postseason and finding relative success there. However, a new dawn is upon the Twin Cities.
Anthony Edwards has changed the collective mindset of Wolves faithful. During his first three NBA seasons, Edwards has been at the forefront of his team, leading the Timberwolves to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in 18 years. Despite winning more games, the mid-market Wolves still seemed to be overlooked at a national level. Ant is getting his more than-deserved praise, but nobody else on his team is. In particular, Edwards’ fellow 2020 draftee Jaden McDaniels seems to be the most overlooked player on the squad.
Early Tuesday afternoon, the NBA’s John Schuhmann published a survey asking 30 current league General Managers questions surrounding the upcoming NBA season. Most of the questions they answered were either team or individual-player-based. The votes were compiled into a percentage-based pool rather than listing the exact number of votes for each team/player. There were only a few mentions of the Timberwolves in the article. Most of which involved Ant. With that being said, it’s the lack of attention McDaniels received is leaving me speechless.
Above is a screenshot of the defense portion of the survey. Some names, such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday, and Marcus Smart are deservedly featured in the responses. However, it doesn’t take long to realize that Jaden’s name isn’t even mentioned. He received zero votes for the best perimeter or overall defender in the NBA. Z-e-r-o.
Do the voters know he exists?
Unfortunately, this isn’t anything new. As pretty much every Wolves fan is aware of, McDaniels didn’t make an All-Defensive team last season. The now 6-foot-11 forward received three first-team votes and 34 second-team votes. The teams are decided by points; if a player is voted first team, they receive two points per vote; if they are voted second team, they receive one point per. Jaden finished with 40 total points, 13 less than Bam Adebayo, who received the lowest amount points and still made the second team.
Again, I ask whether the voters even know he exists.
As someone who has watched almost every game that McDaniels has been active in throughout his career, I find it baffling that we are even having this conversation right now. However, I feel like it is part of my duty to use this platform to hopefully shed some light on how good of a defender he truly is and why I believe the NBA continues to overlook his generational defensive talents.
The Jaw-Dropping Stats & Defensive Versatility
Karl-Anthony Towns said it best; “Women lie. Men lie. Numbers don’t.”
It’s easy for me, someone who’s religiously watched the Timberwolves since 2015, to say things that may come across as biased. Having a bias toward a belief isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, we all have biases of our own. However, it’s vital that we can back those claims up. In the sports world, using stats to get our point across is the best way to go about things — there is only so much the good old eye test can prove.
When claiming that McDaniels is one of the best defenders in the NBA, finding stats that back that up is incredibly easy. That is one of the reasons why I find it so interesting that Slim is not getting the attention he deserves.
Below are some of Jaden’s defensive stats from last season via bball-index.com. I want you to keep in mind that he is nearly 7-feet tall and weighs almost 200 pounds.
McDaniels was the Wolves’ clear and away best perimeter defender last year. This means he defended the opposing team’s best offensive player from one through four every game. One night, he’d cover Trae Young; the next, he would be on Kevin Durant. Sometimes, a player’s defensive ratings can be inflated due to who they are defending nightly. If a player is guarding, for example, the opposing team’s shooting guard every game, the man they are defending isn’t always an All-Star caliber scorer.
Because Slim takes on the most challenging cover every game, the chart below is absolutely nuts.
Jaden McDaniels should be making the All-Defensive first team this season, no questions asked.— Charlie Walton (@CharlieWaltonMN) February 1, 2023
He defends opponent’s best player every game and puts almost everyone in jail. Yet, isn’t getting the attention he deserves from the national media.
( via @The_BBall_Index) pic.twitter.com/77GjVqjQeD
Why Isn’t He Receiving His Flowers?
After looking into some advanced stats, it’s clear that even if you don’t consistently watch the Timberwolves, doing a little research will show just how emphatic a defender McDaniels truly is. So then, why has his national media attention been almost non-existent? Well, history is repeating itself again — mid-market Minnesota isn’t helping how many eyes are on him.
As most of you know, The Timberwolves have ten games that will be featured on National TV this season. To put some context into that, the Los Angeles Lakers will be on either NBA TV, ESPN, TNT, or ABC 40 times. You read that right — almost half of the Lakers’ season will be available for the vast majority of the NBA community to view.
After making a quick stop with the Utah Jazz last season, old friend Jarred Vanderbilt found himself on the Lakers to finish the rest of the year. Timberwolves and Jazz fans were very familiar with Vanderbilt’s winning ways. However, after his first couple of games in Los Angeles, fans were running from near and far, praising his unique play style.
From a fan perspective, I couldn’t have been happier for V8 — his hard work was finally paying off, and fans appreciated how much he did on the court. However, I’d be lying if I said some of that attention didn’t strike me wrong. It was a bummer that Vanderbilt needed one of the largest sports markets in existence for the public to see how good he indeed was.
The same is happening to Jaden McDaniels.
“Jaden is the most important person on the team because he has the most potential,” said Anthony Edwards during Minnesota’s media day. “I think the world knows we wouldn't be the Minnesota Timberwolves without Jaden McDaniels. I’m looking forward to him having a phenomenal season.”
Sorry to break this to you, Ant, but the world doesn’t know about Jaden, and it seems as if they never will as long as he is in a Timberwolves jersey. Of course, I’m not saying this to imply that he will have the same fate as Vanderbilt (leaving and going to a bigger market). Instead, it seems no matter how many wins the Wolves achieve or how many new national fans the team receives, key players on the team will continue to get overlooked. The NBA’s GM survey is a will and testament to just that.