From: Las Vegas
JonK. Way more at the link:
The Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz had been going back and forth for a few weeks in June trying to find common ground on a Rudy Gobert trade, and it just wasn’t happening.
The talks had reached such a significant stalemate, sources told The Athletic, that by June 30 the Wolves had turned their attention to other trade partners in search of a big man to help them with rebounding and interior defense. The hang-up? The Jazz were insistent upon Jaden McDaniels being included in any package to get them to part with one of their franchise players. The Wolves, meanwhile, considered McDaniels off limits.
So there sat the biggest blockbuster trade of the summer, teetering on the brink of collapse over a third-year player who last season averaged 9.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and had one of the highest foul rates in the league. Wolves President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly had packed his offer to Utah with valuable role players and a jaw-dropping amount of draft capital — four first-round picks and a pick swap — partly in an effort to keep McDaniels out of the deal.
When the trade finally went down on July 1, many in the NBA world fretted about the steep price — three unprotected firsts in 2023, 2025 and 2027 and the top-five protected 2029 pick headed to Utah for a 30-year-old center who isn’t the kind of bucket-getter who traditionally commands a return.
Boylan also put a lot of emphasis on finding a consistent arc for McDaniels’ jumper. For the Wolves to maximize their new-look starting five with McDaniels at small forward and Gobert at center, they need McDaniels to be a reliable catch-and-shoot guy, both in the corners and above the break. He has shown potential there, hitting 50 percent of his 20 3s in the playoffs against Memphis, including five in Game 6.
The Wolves determined that McDaniels’ optimal shooting arc is 47 degrees. Boylan loaded on his phone HomeCourt, an app developed in part by Steve Nash to track shooting, and used it to record McDaniels’ jumpers. The app calculates the arc on every shot, keeps track of makes and misses and produces video cuts. Boylan sent those to McDaniels after workouts so he could watch himself later in the evening. At the start of the summer, McDaniels was shooting a flatter shot with a 45-degree arc. Three weeks into the workouts, the arc was up to 47 percent, right where they want it.
“He’s really emblematic of what we want the culture to be,” Boylan said. “Competitive, hard-working, high standards. That’s what we want out of our guys and he brings it.”
It starts with his versatility. The BBall Index has tracked more than 2,400 NBA players dating to 2013 and has developed a player evaluation metric called LEBRON that accounts for teammates, opponents and role on the floor. In BBall’s defensive component, there have been only seven seasons for wing stoppers aged 21 or younger who played at least 1,000 minutes to receive grades of A- or higher. McDaniels accounts for two of them.
Last season, McDaniels and Derrick White were the only players in the league, regardless of age, to receive A- or higher grades in both rim protection and on-ball defense. According to BBall’s tracking data, McDaniels most frequently guarded power forwards (24.39 percent of the time), followed by shooting guards (24.04), small forwards (20.87), point guards (19.91) and centers (10.79). He is the youngest player in the database to post a season that versatile while also grading as highly on BBall’s overall defensive impact metric.
Once adjusted for shooter, opponents shot 7.56 percent worse at the rim than expected when McDaniels contested the shot. White was the only wing stopper with a better number, at 7.80 percent.