*extremely long sigh*
Minnesota Timberwolves wing Jaden McDaniels was not selected to either NBA All-Defensive Team, the league announced on Tuesday afternoon.
McDaniels in his age-22 season took an incredible leap from promising young defender to elite perimeter stopper capable of ruining nights for everyone from Luka Dončić to Donovan Mitchell, Jamal Murray to LeBron James, and anyone in between. He has a legitimate case for both best and most versatile defender in the NBA. No one took more difficult assignments night in and night out than McDaniels did, according to Basketball Index, and he was elite not only at navigating screens and slowing down perimeter handlers, but also excelled at protecting the rim as a help-side defender.
Jaden McDaniels is one of the best defenders in the NBA at 22. League toughest matchup-difficulty, yet he’s holding stars to 32% shooting in isolation— NBA University (@NBA_University) February 22, 2023
All while being a top-5 weak-side rim protector with monstrous versatility to guard up and down the lineup…
All-Defense him pic.twitter.com/iXAfeqMr9r
What is unfortunate is that McDaniels was a victim of the NBA’s rather odd positional breakdown in terms of the voting eligibility. The third-year stud defended guards for more than half his time on the court this season, per Basketball Index, yet McDaniels was listed as a forward, while players such as Dillon Brooks, Jimmy Butler, Paul George and Mikal Bridges were listed as guards. Hell, even Herb Jones (!) was listed as a guard, which is utterly ridiculous. If those five are guards, McDaniels absolutely should’ve been eligible as one, too.
The Timberwolves’ rising star finished sixth in voting among forwards with 40 points, behind Jaren Jackson Jr. and Evan Mobley (First Team), Draymond Green and O.G. Anunoby (Second Team), as well as Giannis Antetokounmpo. The gap between Anunoby (81) and McDaniels (40) was rather wide, signaling that McDaniels wasn’t even close to making one of the two teams. Jaden received three First Team votes and 34 Second Team votes.
Jaden McDaniels lost out on making one of the All-Defensive teams because of the positional breakdown. Finished sixth in forward voting— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) May 9, 2023
It’s unfortunate because if Brooks is a guard, McDaniels definitely should be, too. Hard to see both White/Brooks over Jaden in that case. pic.twitter.com/KH25NuRyHR
(side note, Anthony Edwards received one First Team vote and two Second Team votes.)
McDaniels was the only player in the NBA to record at least 75 blocks and 75 steals this season, and his near nightly availability (79 games played) enabled him to make a massive impact on the team’s defense over the course of his third-year leap. The best part is how much pride he takes in getting after his matchups defensively.
“I need to be on one of those [All-Defensive] Teams. First Team, I feel like I have earned it. This is the best defense I’ve played in my career. The things that I’m doing, the players that I guard every night,” McDaniels told Steph Noh of The Sporting News in March. “Going from guarding Giannis [Antetokounmpo] to guarding Curry or Dame [Lillard], the versatility of guarding one through four — and the best players on each team, every game, every night.”
“I try to ruin their days, ruin their nights,” McDaniels added.
Despite missing out on the All-Defensive Teams this year, it feels safe to say that McDaniels will be on the shortlist of defenders that national media will keep a watchful eye on next season, especially if the Timberwolves regain their health in 2023-24 and improve upon their No. 8 seed finish in the Western Conference.
McDaniels is eligible for a contract extension of up to five years and well over $100 million this summer, so hopefully he’ll be giving stars fits while rockin’ a Wolves jersey for a long, long time.
But until then, rock your J.A.D.E.N. merch from our friend Jakes Graphs and spread the good word about Jaden McDaniels.