The trade deadline is about three weeks away. Immediately, the need for a true backup to Domantas Sabonis pops into mind, but a backup wing remains a need as well.
Names like Nerlens Noel, Mason Plumlee, and others have been thrown around quite often among the deadline discourse, but another guy—a wing and teammate of Plumlee—who could also be a worthy target is Charlotte’s Jalen McDaniels.
As reported by Shams Charania, the Phoenix Suns and other teams have shown recent interest in trying to acquire McDaniels. Even though the report’s been disputed by a Phoenix radio host, McDaniels is nevertheless deserving of league-wide attention.
Sacramento’s played the Hornets twice, but even with that, there’s little shame in not knowing who McDaniels is. There’s a reason HoopsHype’s Frank Urbina noted that “it may be hard for non-Charlotte Hornets fans to know” that “McDaniels is quietly emerging [as] a solid young player.”
A second round selection in 2019 out of San Diego State, McDaniels is a guy whose offense is coming around and who is an effective defender. Best of all, he’s the definition of versatile at 6’9″, 205 lbs., and possessing a 7’0″ wingspan.
This season, he’s averaging 10.8 points on 45.5% shooting and 34.2% from deep with 4.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists. His career three-point percentage is actually higher at 35.2%, but McDaniels is up to 3.5 attempts per game from last year’s 2.0 attempts, assuming a bigger role.
Better, as one Hornets analyst wrote, McDaniels has “flashed some ball skills and has shown an improved handle as he strides to the rim with his long steps and collapses defenses” this season.
Defensively, as his physical profile indicates, he’s versatile enough to guard multiple positions, mainly 3’s and 4’s as his head coach has expressed. He’s active and energetic, and his disruptive style earns him steals (averaging 1.0 a game) and deflections (2.4, which would lead the Kings).
He’s earned praise as a role player off the bench and as a fill-in starter when Gordon Hayward’s missed time.
So based on all of that alone, yes, of course McDaniels would be an excellent fit for the Kings. If anything that confirms the obvious, but the question is whether or not he’s available.
Even if he was, could the Kings get him? Would they?
By all accounts, the Hornets remain of the belief that they are so close to being a playoff team, and that’s not far off; a 24 year-old going on 25, McDaniels fits with that plan. Moreover, Steve Clifford is a defensive-minded coach who no doubt values what the player offers (that is, if Clifford is kept around— it wasn’t like he was their first choice for the job).
Providing some hope that the Hornets would move McDaniels is the fact he’s a free agent after this season.
But the contract year presents some hurdles. The Kings are looking to contend in the present, but they want sustainable contention; that’s why Monte McNair has slated the roster towards a specific age group with an eye on having guys’ contracts secure.
McDaniels fits in age-wise, but he’ll command a lot of attention in the offseason as a two-way bench player that has the sort of size and length that is surely a commodity around the league. He’d in no way be a lock for being on the Kings going forward with other teams courting him.
Still, as the trade deadline approaches and as conversations circulating around it increase in volume, throw Jalen McDaniels down in your notes. He’s undeniably valuable and intriguing.