Warriors

2020 NBA Draft sleepers: Can Jaden McDaniels develop into Kevin Durant?

2020 NBA Draft sleepers: Can Jaden McDaniels develop into Kevin Durant?

Editor's note: As the Warriors prepare for the 2020 NBA draft, during which they will have a lottery pick for the first time since 2012, NBC Sports Bay Area will present a twice-weekly series spotlighting two players expected to be evaluated. This is the seventh of a 12-part series over the next six weeks.

The long and exceedingly lean physique is reminiscent of a Brandon Ingram or a Jonathan Isaac or a Chris Boucher. Or even a young Kevin Durant.

That the resume is as thin as frame partly explains why Jaden McDaniels is a bit of a sleeper. After one season at the University of Washington, there is a chance he’ll sneak into the lottery but it’s more likely he’ll be drafted later in the first round.

Potential is why McDaniels is on the radar of NBA teams, including the Warriors. If Golden State trades out of the top five and drops toward the middle of the draft, McDaniels likely will be available. His game is, at his best, is stellar.

McDaniels is as comfortable playing above the rim as pulling up from deep. Despite being 6-foot-10, he handles well enough to score off the dribble. In his collegiate debut, he scored 18 pounds, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked four shots in an upset win over mighty Baylor.

Indeed, it is McDaniels’ combination of small forward finesse and power forward length that caught the attention of opposing coaches and NBA scouts.

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Those scouts already knew McDaniels was a five-star prospect at Federal Way High in the Seattle area. They’d already seen the clips, including those in which McDaniels, perhaps bored, would finish in transition by lobbing balls off the backboard to himself for dunks.

They also glimpsed red flags. McDaniels was prone to turnovers. His shot selection was spotty. There was some inconsistency insofar as some nights McDaniels was the best player on the floor and other nights he was liability to the Huskies.

It also will concern front offices that McDaniels displayed fits of immaturity. That was a factor in him leading the Pac-12 Conference in technical fouls with six. He also fouled out eight times in 31 games. At one point of the season, McDaniels was benched by Huskies coach Mike Hopkins, who was displeased with a spate of fouls and poor judgment.

McDaniels is, in this regard, not unlike teenage Marquese Chriss, who struggled in his first three NBA seasons but exhibited clear signs of maturity after joining the Warriors last fall.

McDaniels, however, has a deeper basket of pure offensive skills and possesses the ability to defend at least three positions. The comps in most mock drafts – such as Ingram and Isaac – are not so much about what he is than about what he can be.

If McDaniels, the younger brother of Hornets guard Jalen McDaniels, matures nicely contains his emotions and adds 10-15 pounds to his frame there is a reasonable chance he can become a star. It’s rare that someone with his size/skill combination comes along.

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Some team will be willing to take that chance. McDaniels is a longshot for the Warriors, but any play they make for him will come only after they’ve gone beyond the tantalizing gifts and come away convinced their culture can help him reach his ceiling.

Jaden McDaniels

Position: Forward
Class: Freshman
Birthdate: Sept. 29, 2000 (19)
Hometown: Federal Way, Wash.
2019-20 stats: 13.0 points (40.5 percent FG, 33.9 percent 3p, 76.3 percent FT), 5.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.4 blocks.
Height: 6-foot-10
Weight: 200
Wingspan: 7 feet
What they’re saying: “You know the funny thing is, and I don’t mean funny to make a joke, but only really good players can lead a league in (turnovers and fouls). You go take a look at the all-time leaders on those lists and it’s nothing but Hall of Famers. I say that to say, how good must Jaden be to where he’s giving you so much that it outweighs those things you don’t like? And the answer is, he’s really, really good. Now as a coach, you have to ask yourself: ‘What can I live with and how can we curb some of those erratic behaviors?’” – former Warriors coach and current NBA/NCAA analyst P.J. Carlesimo, to the Seattle Times.

Warriors' Steph Curry explains rationale behind Howard golf donation

Warriors' Steph Curry explains rationale behind Howard golf donation

Warriors star Steph Curry simply was visiting Howard University to attend a screening of a documentary he was an executive producer for called "Emanuel," which focused on the horrific 2015 shooting of nine Black worshipers by a white supremacist inside a Charleston, South Carolina church.

But a single conversation with a Howard student ended up leading to Curry making a donation allowing the school to create a Division I men's and women's golf program, beginning with the 2020-21 academic year. The amount of Curry's donation wasn't disclosed by the University, but it is expected to support several scholarships, hire a coach and fund the initial recruiting process. One student in particular, Otis Ferguson IV, sparked the idea in Curry's head after the two spoke about Ferguson's hopes of Howard creating a club golf program.

"He told me how much golf means to him," Curry told reporters after the first round of the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe. "The idea came just from that. I heard what he had to say and I was like 'What can we do to bring that Division I program back?' Men's and Women's, and create scholarships, because we know how great the game of golf is, wanting to continue to create access and opportunity, not just playing but also in the business of golf."

 

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The coronavirus pandemic could have some disastrous impacts on Division I athletic departments over the next few years, but it doesn't sound like Curry's donation is going anywhere.

The recent groundswell of support for the Black Lives Matter movement has brought national attention to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which never have had the same kind of competitive football and men's basketball programs as their other Division I counterparts. Five-star prep basketball prospect Makur Maker committed to Howard's men's basketball program on July 3, which could be just the beginning of a trend of elite prep athletes choosing HBCUs for all sports, not just basketball.

[RELATED: Watch Steph Curry, Canelo Álvarez spar at celebrity golf tournament]

Curry's obsession with golf has been well documented throughout his NBA career. He and former teammate Andre Iguodala famously would sneak away during playoff series to get 18 holes in, whether they were at home or in another market. Iguodala recently said he bet a lump sum on Curry to beat the field in Lake Tahoe this weekend at the ACC.

The two-time NBA MVP finished Friday's first-round in 14th place, with 14 points (ACC utilizes golf's Stableford scoring system). Considering Steph's father Dell Curry stood ahead of him in the standings going into Saturday's second round, expect Curry to come out motivated at Edgewood Tahoe South.

Steph Curry believes Warriors' 15-50 year could be blessing in disguise

Steph Curry believes Warriors' 15-50 year could be blessing in disguise

Making it to five straight NBA Finals is a tough task.

Not many NBA teams have accomplished it. The journey each year takes a lot out of players.

During the Warriors' five straight Finals appearances, they played 105 NBA playoff games. That's a lot of extra miles on the human body, and it started to take its toll on the team over the course of a few months last year.

Kevin Durant, before leaving for the Brooklyn Nets in free agency, ruptured his Achilles in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Klay Thompson tore his ACL in the very next game, the last of the Warriors' season.

In the Warriors' fourth game of the 2019-20 season, Steph Curry broke his left hand and didn't return until early March. With his Splash Brother sidekicks out, Draymond Green nursed several injuries and missed 22 of 65 games.

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All that added up to an NBA-worst 15-50 record this season.

So what gives Curry hope that the Warriors can get back on the right track during the 2020-21 season?

"We still have a great core," Curry told reporters Friday during an interview after the first round of the American Century Championship golf tournament in Lake Tahoe. "We have an understanding of who we are, and like you said, it was a crazy year with my hand injury, Klay being out all year, Draymond in and out of the lineup with injuries all year, a lot of new guys. It's definitely different.

"But this could be a blessing in disguise in terms of this next three, four years we want to have. Get rested, get healthy. We'll obviously be watching Orlando and taking all that in, but come next season, whenever that starts, we'll be ready. We've had a long seven years, so it was nice to get a little refresh."

The NBA is set to restart the 2019-20 season in Orlando later this month. At the moment, the 2020-21 season is expected to start as early as Dec. 1.

The championship core of Curry, Thompson and Green still have that hunger and still carry a chip on their shoulders, as guard Damion Lee said recently on the Runnin' Plays podcast.

[RELATED: Five bold predictions for Warriors]

General manager Bob Myers and his staff will attempt to retool the roster this offseason, and get the trio some help.

But no matter what happens in Orlando or during the offseason, Curry and the Warriors expect to return to contention next season.

It would be unwise to doubt him.

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