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Jaden McDaniels
David Berding-USA TODAY Sports
Basketball Daily Dose

Jaden McDaniels Breaking Out

by Jonas Nader
Updated On: April 1, 2021, 1:29 am ET

James Harden tweaked his hamstring, Nick Nurse is playing against Chris Boucher in his hometown fantasy league again and Jaden McDaniels, Moses Brown and Kevin Porter Jr. have the look of fantasy league winners. Let’s Dose!


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The Jaden McDaniels Show


Chances are if you’ve read my Waiver Wired articles you probably know all about this rising star. I see a lot of Jonathan Isaac in McDaniels and I don’t say that lightly, but you could argue that his offense may be ahead of where Isaac was as a rookie. Both players make their money swatting shots with McDaniels owning one of the best block rates among forwards, and his on-ball defense has been on full display lately against the likes of Luka Doncic (held him to 0-of-7 shooting), James Harden and Julius Randle. He had an 18-point outing vs. the Knicks Wednesday with four triples and is breaking out before our eyes, putting up top-35 numbers of 14.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.0 dimes, 1.8 blocks and 2.8 triples over his last four games in 9-cat.

“What he’s doing on the defensive end right now is special,” coach Chris Finch said. “I can’t remember a 19-year-old rookie coming in having this type of impact battling multiple positions and making a great impact for his team.” There’s a reason the Wolves turned down Orlando’s offer of Aaron Gordon for this stud in the making, and while we could expect some volatility in his production, you can’t leave this kind of upside on the wire. Go get him if he’s not already scooped up. 


James Harden tweaks hamstring, Claxton bounces back


Harden left Wednesday’s game with right hamstring “tightness,” and that’s not the worst news in the world since he apparently doesn’t have a strain. Coach Steve Nash said he’ll be re-evaluated in the morning, and while I doubt he suits up vs. Charlotte on the second leg of a back-to-back, Nash was “optimistic” that Harden won’t be out for the long term. Picking up Bruce Brown in the short term makes sense though, and he looked good on Wednesday with 10 points, six rebounds, two assists and one steal in 29 minutes. With both Harden and Kevin Durant off the court this season, Brown has a per-36 line of 14.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.6 dimes, 1.0 steals and 0.4 blocks.

And also, before we move on from Brooklyn, tonight was another reminder that Nicolas Claxton is their best center and that I think he maintains a role when LaMarcus Aldridge debuts at the expense of DeAndre Jordan. Claxton hit 6-of-7 shots for 12 points, eight rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block in 21 minutes, and Brooklyn’s defensive numbers with him on the floor are unfair. 


Kevin Porter Jr. is a beast


Kevin Porter Jr. is a fantasy league winner in every sense of the word and showed why on Wednesday with 20 points, two rebounds, six dimes and two triples. John Wall (knee) was out and is an obvious shutdown candidate with reports of a possible knee surgery, so it’s just a matter of time before KPJ is the primary playmaker and No. 2 option on offense behind Christian Wood. In the eight games that he received a full workload, he has showcased early-round upside with 19.5 points, 6.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.8 triples. 


Hamidou Diallo making noise in Detroit


Diallo is starting to feel at home with his new team and has looked electric in his last two games, averaging 19.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.0 dimes, 1.0 steals, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 triples in 27 minutes. He showcased similar upside back in OKC whenever he got extended run with 16.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.6 blocks and 0.4 triples in five fill-in starts, and he’s going to get a lot of burn in Detroit with the franchise viewing him as a “core player,” ahead of his restricted free agency.

“He’s an athletic young man who is just scratching the surface of what he can be in this league,” coach Dwane Casey said. He also noted how much the games have changed when Diallo enters with his defensive intensity, saying Diallo “lit a fire under everybody.” He’s a clear pickup and I think he has a shot at mid-round numbers if he can sustain the 3-point shooting which has never been a strength. 


De’Anthony Melton posts a dud


One game after scoring 23 points with four rebounds, two assists and two steals in 28 minutes, Melton fell back to earth on Wednesday even with Grayson Allen (hip) still out, posting five points with not much else in 22 minutes. Look, I get it, if you don’t want to mess with this situation at all I understand because it’s been frustrating, but if you’re willing to be patient here just like we were with Robert Williams I think the payoff will be massive.

One thing I was encouraged by was that Taylor Jenkins did say some really nice things about him before the game and that he was still trying to figure out what lineup combos work best, so a deep dive into the film or advanced statistics will show him the way. Consider this, Melton’s real plus-minus rating ranks 17th in the entire NBA ahead of the likes of Kyrie Irving, Anthony and Kawhi Leonard... What he’s doing on a per-minute level across all six counting categories is truly rare and I still get the feeling that Jenkins will see the light before the end of the season. 


Shai Gilgeous-Alexander not close, Moses Brown dominant and Aleksej Pokusevski is out


The Thunder announced that SGA will be re-evaluated in mid-April for his plantar fasciitis, though I think it’s important to note that it doesn’t mean he’ll return at that time. The Thunder are going to milk this as they attempt to tank, but it’s not going well as they continue to win games they are not supposed to. Theo Maledon shot 3-of-16 from the field Wednesday but I still think he’s a priority pickup, averaging 15.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.7 dimes, 1.0 steals and 2.3 triples over his last three games.

Aleksej Pokusevski was on the verge of a breakout and had a 21-point game in his last outing before entering the NBA’s medical protocols. It’s unclear how much time he will miss and fantasy managers currently in the playoffs may have to cut him loose, but just do yourself a favor and make sure this rookie is in your fantasy lineup the second he comes out of the protocols. There is truly no one like this kid and the sky’s the limit. In the meantime, Kenrich Williams is a sneaky add that isn’t getting enough attention.

And about that Moses Brown guy, he’s still pretty dang good, posting 20 points with 12 rebounds and a block. I was talking about stashing Brown back in February before he was even called up from the G League for season pass subscribers, so make sure you sign up! Tony Bradley doesn’t appear to be a threat to Brown, and the deal OKC signed Brown to backs that up.

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Chris Boucher’s fantasy arrow is still pointing down


For most of you the trade deadline in your league has likely passed, but if not, I think this is a textbook buy-low opportunity. On Wednesday, Boucher played fewer than 20 minutes for the fifth time in his last seven games, with Nick Nurse saying before the game that he envisions him as a four going forward. “The reality is he’s going to have to be a four-man,” he said. For whatever reason, Nurse has been way too hard on Boucher, but the tank in Toronto is picking up speed with yet another loss. In Masai Ujiri’s first interview after the deadline when he couldn’t find a deal for Kyle Lowry, Ujiri couldn’t stop talking about how much the first round pick he has is going to help shape the future and that’s a pretty big tell that he’s got his eyes on the lottery. And who can blame him with the top five players in this 2021 class looking like superstars. Boucher’s day will come, and I think it will be sooner rather than later.

Gary Trent Jr. breaks out


Now with four games under his belt as a Raptor, GTJ is settling in nicely, dropping 31 points and adding six triples, two rebounds, two steals and zero turnovers in 36 minutes. Kyle Lowry (right foot infection) will miss the next 7-to-10 days and the Raptors have no reliable guards off the bench, so GTJ’s minutes will be through the roof. My only complaint about him is that his stat set is a bit hollow apart from his production in points, triples and steals, so I’m only talking top-100 upside here. 


Gorgui Dieng only gets six minutes


I was very bullish on stashing Dieng at the trade deadline in the hopes that he landed with the Hornets or Mavericks, but it appears his role in San Antonio isn’t going to be nearly as good as originally thought with just six minutes in his debut. The weird thing about it was that Gregg Popovich was talking him up before the game and said he was a quick learner, so there is a chance the Spurs were just getting his feet wet. I’m not holding him while we find out, but I will be watching him closely because he’s proven in the past that he only needs 20 minutes to be fantasy relevant. 


Andre Drummond debuts for Lakers


It wasn’t the best debut, obviously, as Drummond played 14 foul-plagued minutes and then suffered a toe injury. Drummond apparently told Frank Vogel that he couldn’t run, but X-rays were negative and he’ll be re-evaluated on Thursday with what they are calling a “contusion” for now. It sounds like he’ll be OK, but it’s yet another headache his fantasy managers have to deal with after a month of inactivity.