For today’s NBA Draft feature, we are headed back to the Pac-12 for another freshman prospect in Jaden McDaniels out of Washington. McDaniels is originally from Seattle and stayed in-state for his lone collegiate season, and while his numbers maybe don’t pop off the page, McDaniels is an intriguing prospect that should be off the board in the mid-to-late stages of the first round. Sharing the spotlight with fellow five-star recruit Isiah Stewart, McDaniels averaged 13 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest, leading the team in scoring seven times, rebounds five times, and assists four times. He did this while being a rare highlight in a tough season for the Huskies. Coming off a Pac-12 regular season title, Washington crashed and burned to 12th place this season, suffering a first-round exit in the Pac-12 tournament. Scouts are extremely high on McDaniels’ upside, and he’s one of the top power forward options in this year’s draft class.
You may remember Baylor making headlines for going on an absurd winning streak after losing their opening game to Washington, and McDaniels, making his collegiate debut, had a lot to do with handing the Bears that defeat in a high-profile contest. Baylor was ranked 16th entering the game, and they would eventually spend much of the season at #1, but McDaniels dropped 18 points, collected eight rebounds, and record four blocks in a 67-64 victory to start the year, showing minimal hesitation in competing at the highest level of college basketball. He helped ice the game with a cool 7-8 from the free throw line.
Now, we’ll fast forward to McDaniels’ last regular season game, when the Huskies visited Arizona. The Wildcats had been in and out of the top 25, and they had been an absolute force at home, but Washington got a huge road victory to close out their conference slate, and they were boosted by a huge performance from their freshman power forward. McDaniels scored 20 points on 50% shooting and a 4-4 effort at the charity stripe. He also drained a pair of triples in his scoring output. He also brought down six rebounds and blocked three shots in the 69-63 win.
As mentioned before, McDaniels is regarded as a high-ceiling prospect. He may not be a NBA starter right off the bat – depending on who he lands with – but he’s got the tools to capitalize on his upside. The polish will come, but you can’t teach natural size, athleticism, and quickness, and those are all attributes the McDaniels brings to the table. As with any prospect there are some concerns, including his defensive discipline, but given his excellent length, he projects to have excellent upside there as well, if he can avoid careless fouls. He provides a decent mid-range and three-point shot, which is a great addition to his 6’10 frame. At 200 pounds, he may need to add a little muscle to stick at power forward long term, but he has come a long way since beginning the season at 182.
Prediction: Round 1, Pick 21, Denver Nuggets
Denver could use some reinforcements in their frontcourt, and if McDaniels is available here, he projects as a solid offensive contributor with the upside of superb defensive versatility. If Denver is picking in this range, McDaniels should most definitely be one of their draft-day targets, as it has the added upside of keeping him near the West Coast, where he is clearly comfortable.