McDaniels Does Huskies Proud in NBA Playoffs

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One of the reasons a University of Washington basketball coaching change was necessary was to look at today’s NBA rosters — there just aren’t many former Huskies on them, cashing those big paychecks, developing into pro players.

Jaden McDaniels, however, is one of the noted exceptions.

The 6-foot-9 forward from Federal Way, Washington — and a UW player for the 2019-2020 season alone — is a starter and a fourth-year player for the Minnesota Timberwolves, the first team to advance to the second round of the NBA playoffs this time after eliminating the Phoenix Suns on Sunday with a four-game sweep.

McDaniels was dependable in the opening series, scoring 9, 25, 5 and 18 points, while supplying his usual steady defense up front.

While not known as a dedicated rebounder, he still came up with 6, 8, 4 and 3 to help put Phoenix away, prodded to do more by Timberwolves coach Chris Finch.

“It’s the playoffs, we’ve got to win,” McDaniels said in a postgame interview. “We’ve got to do everything to win. [Finch] be on me the whole regular season to offensive rebound. You know he’s right. He knows what he’s talking about. I’m just going to continue to listen to him.”


Jaden McDaniels drives on Kevin Durant during their playoff series.

That would be a far cry from a younger Jaden McDaniels, who was a somewhat immature Husky freshman and a season-long handful for now departed UW coach Mike Hopkins, who did more babysitting than coaching.

McDaniels just needed to grow up some and decide what was important to him, which was having a successful NBA career, and he’s made that happen.

The only other former Husky still involved in the NBA postseason is swingman Justin Holiday with the Denver Nuggets., the Timberwolves’ second-round opponent in a series that begins on Saturday.

Just 23, McDaniels signed a 5-year, $136 million contract extension last October, having fully established himself in the league and taking his basketball very seriously. He’s appeared in 284 games, starting 208 times.

And this was a guy who the pros weren’t sure about initially, with the former UW player originally drafted 28th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers, traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder and then traded again to Minnesota before even playing in an NBA game. The Timberwolves couldn’t be more sold on him.

For the latest UW basketball and football news, go to si.com/college/washington

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