Josh Okogie's struggles to do anything right on the offensive end of the floor, including missing a dunk, continued through the first half of Friday's 106-103 Timberwolves win over Oklahoma City.
So in the second half Wolves coach Ryan Saunders made a lineup change and plugged in rookie Jaden McDaniels for Okogie, and then Saunders stuck with McDaniels in the final minutes.
McDaniels didn't score a point as he shot 0-for-4. But the Wolves were effusive in their praise of McDaniels' night, which included a plus-20 performance in a game the Wolves won by three.
He continues to impress the coaching staff and earn its trust thanks in part to his defensive acumen, which included a great block of Darius Bazley in the fourth quarter with 2 minutes, 32 seconds remaining and the Wolves clinging to a three-point lead.
McDaniels also earned rave reviews from D'Angelo Russell, who previously referred to McDaniels as a "beast."
Russell sounded as if he was campaigning for president of the Jaden McDaniels' fanclub. Here was his stump speech from his postgame media session.
"I'm so high on him," Russell said. "I think he's way better than people are realizing. He knows the game better than people expect. He makes these exciting plays out of nowhere. And he's only 19. For him to keep getting that confidence, there's gonna be downs. But right now I think he's on the up without even scoring the ball.
"So him just continuing to affect the game without the ball going into the hole for him and offensively, still being aggressive, I think that makes us a better team. I think he's going to be special in the league, too. Eyes aren't on him, everybody is paying attention to everything else, and that's falling into his favor. When he gets the opportunity to make the wrong play or the right play, he's usually making the right play, and that's a good sign for a young player."
Jarred Vanderbilt played with McDaniels during a stretch in the second quarter when the Wolves built an eight-point lead.
"You're having somebody else that can pretty much guard one through five," Vanderbilt said. "Me and him pretty much switch everything and just try to be that defensive anchor. He's a great player and he doesn't have too many holes in his game right now. He's still young. He's learning. But he's a very smart guy. He picks up on stuff fast and he's just a great young player. I love playing with him offensively and defensively. He makes the game a lot easier. He's a true competitor and he's a great player."
McDaniels is forcing the Wolves' hand to have him on the floor more and more. Saunders stuck with him Friday, but as Karl-Anthony Towns works his way back, lineup rotations are bound to change. Can McDaniels stick around? He's been making the case consistently the last few weeks he belongs.