After a promising rookie season, Jalen McDaniels is now ready to establish his role into the Hornets 10 man rotation. In the end of last year he displayed a good amount of useful traits that he can bring to the table as a forward in todays NBA.
James Borrego and the front office opted to develop him with the Greensboro Swarm for the large part of the 2019-20 season and that appears to have worked out pretty well. McDaniels used that period to improve his body condition and his confidence with Charlotte schemes both offensively and defensively. The measurables and skillsets are there. The only thing in question is if when he gets stable minutes from the bench for this team can he be a reliable contributor?
The coaching staff, during preseason, made clear that the rotation will be composed at large by ten players, especially in the first months of this season. This means that McDaniels is actually fighting for his minutes with his former G-League teammate, Caleb Martin. During friendly games they were used alternatively as Borrego wanted to play the one who was more in a groove between the two. This could be repeated as the season progresses.
Nothing is set in stone and McDaniels will need to push on what he does best in order to find some sort of continuity. First of all, he will need to shoot the ball with consistency from the three point line. In his college career he wasn’t known for being a shooter, but as his NBA career has developed, he kept on working on this part of the game and that is paying dividends. Charlotte already has players who can handle the ball, score and create shots for others. As the 10th player on a rotation your main job is to turn your little opportunities into gold, especially with three point shots.
In the four preseason games his mechanics from distance looked great, a clear improvement from last season. Fluid, high release point, good legs positioning, you don’t see many 6′ 10” players with this type of coordination. I am pretty confident that McDaniels will be able to space the floor as requested for every minute he is playing with this team.
Offensively there is another great trait that the Hornets lack that he can bring from the bench, offensive rebounding. With his length and IQ he is always ready to contest the offensive glass and give the team extra possessions. Borrego stressed the importance of attacking offensive rebounds and McDaniels fits this roll better than the majority of the Hornets players.
The main reason they can give him a good amount of minutes is related to his unique defensive ability. As we said before he is really fluid for being a 6′ 10” player and that helps him in the 1-5 switching scheme the Hornets are trying to have right now. His length is also near perfect for a small ball five, as Borrego is trying to exploit PJ Washington into that role much more than last year. The mix of IQ, awareness, length and athleticism is really interesting with McDaniels and could make for a very useful player.
This defensive possession from his rookie year is really impressive. He’s always on point even if he is forced into different coverages by the opponents. If he keeps on improving his frame the ways that the Hornets could use him becomes very interesting. You could have with him as the power forward or even as a situational small ball five.
If it were up to me I am choosing McDaniels over Caleb Martin as the last guy to crack this year rotation. Age and defense are big factors into this decision, and his versatility could really help Charlotte on a day to day basis.