“He’s like Michael Jordan”: Anthony Edwards’ Timberwolves teammate Jaden McDaniels heaps heady praise on MVP candidate (Exclusive)

“He’s like Michael Jordan”: Anthony Edwards’ Timberwolves teammate Jaden McDaniels heaps heady praise on MVP candidate (Exclusive)

Jaden McDaniels compares Anthony Edwards to Michael Jordan as the modern-day version

Jaden McDaniels compares Anthony Edwards to Michael Jordan as the modern-day version

As he reflected on Anthony Edwards’ growth as scorer, dunker and passer, Minnesota Timberwolves’ Jaden McDaniels couldn’t help but talk about an NBA star that produces endless amounts of nostalgia and comparisons.

“He’s like Michael Jordan,” McDaniels told Sportskeeda. “If you didn’t watch Mike, you can watch ANT.”

McDaniels hardly meant to invoke any player rankings or any GOAT discussions. In his 15-year NBA career, Jordan won six NBA titles in six Finals appearances and 13 playoff appearances. In his fifth NBA season, Edwards will seek to win his first NBA championship.

Nonetheless, McDaniels at least saw similarities with the way they approach the game.

 

“They’re relentless,” McDaniels said. “They got the athleticism, fadeaways, mid-range and all of that.”

Jaden McDaniels interview (Exclusive)

McDaniels spoke to Sportskeeda about a number of topics, including Edwards’ growth, adjusting without Karl-Anthony Towns and not yet making an All-NBA Defensive team. McDaniels also talked about the Timberwolves’ NBA title chances, why he’s not concerned about their playoff inexperience.

Editor’s note: The following one-on-one conversation has been edited and condensed.

How do you assess the team’s readiness heading into the playoffs?

Jaden McDaniels:

“We’re trying to get ready before the playoffs and make sure we don’t have any slipups and make sure we’re starting off the games well. In the playoffs, every possession counts. So we’re trying to learn and play that way now.”

How do you think the team has managed things without KAT?

Jaden McDaniels:

“We’ve just been trying to hold down the fort until he gets back. We’ve been doing pretty well. It shows how deep our team is. All of us can play. All of us are versatile. When he comes back, he will give us that extra boost. He will be another unicorn on our team. We’re going to love to have him back.”

What do you think getting the No. 1 seed will do?

Jaden McDaniels:

“Our goal is to finish first. But our ultimate goal is to win the championship. Whichever spot puts us in the best position to win, we’ll be grateful for it. Just being No. 1, I guess that means you’re the best team in the West. It’s a season success. But it doesn’t matter if you don’t win or play well in the playoffs. We’re trying to keep winning.”

How does your season compare to last with what you’ve shown on both ends of the floor?

Jaden McDaniels:

“I’m still playing defense and guarding the best player and locking in. I’m always going to play defense. On offense, I’m continuing to be confident in my game. When I’m dribbling or attacking, I’m always staying confident with my shots.”

 

I saw the tracking numbers on some of your defensive matchups.

McDaniels is shown the numbers on his defensive matchups against Brandon Ingram (11-for-26), Kawhi Leonard (12-for-24), Stephen Curry (11-for-26; 5-for-12 from 3), Luka Doncic (3-for-10), Paolo Banchero (4-for-17), DeMar DeRozan (5-for-14), LeBron James (8-for-13), Jayson Tatum (4-for-11), Paul George (3-for-9), De’Aaron Fox (1-for-6) and Jalen Brunson (1-for-5).

Jaden McDaniels:

“Damn, 1-for-6 (Fox), 1-for-5 (Brunson), 3-for-9 (George), 4-for-11 (Tatum)? God. I didn’t know it was that bad. That’s cool.”

Which ones jump out to you the most?

Jaden McDaniels:

“Probably Paolo and De’Aaron Fox. That was my first time guarding Paolo. De’Aaron Fox was hot the whole game. Then in the fourth quarter, he didn’t make a shot. But I remember all of them. DeMar DeRozan’s was recent. My arms are so long that they can’t see the hoop. That’s what it is working.”

What are the other common themes that explain your defensive success in these matchups?

Jaden McDaniels:

“I’m always contesting them. I’m not letting them get a free shot. If one of them get hot, it’s going to be a long day. I’m just making sure that I always contest so that their percentages go down.”

How do you manage things when a defensive assignment is making more shots on you than missing?

Jaden McDaniels:

“I already know now that they’re NBA players. They’re the best players in the world. I already know that they’re going to make shots, even tough shots. I’ll get mad. But I don’t let it take me out on how I play defense.”

With you not being on an All-Defensive team yet, to what extent is that any source of motivation?

Jaden McDaniels:

“Not really. I know what’s going on. But I know if I continue to do it that, I’ll be all right. Then I’ll get the recognition. They can give it to me. I don’t care if I get it or not, to be honest.”

Why not?

Jaden McDaniels:

“We already got the DPOY in Rudy. If I make a first or second team, I would love to do that. I didn’t make it last year. I want to make it this year. But it’s up to the voters. I don’t make the rules. I feel like if Rudy makes it [with another DPOY], I should be able to get at least second All-Defensive team.”

Rudy has done this before. But what have you seen in him defensively given the context of it being his second season here and there’s more familiarity with his teammates?

Jaden McDaniels:

“He’s just being himself. We don’t tell him to do anything besides go rebound and block shots. He’s doing a good job. He’s smart. He’s a three-time DPOY. I can’t really tell you what is better that he’s doing. He’s just being himself. We just know that he has our back on defense. On offense, he’s always going to screen and roll hard. Offensively, he’s being Rudy Gobert.”

Chris [Finch] said that your offensive role is often the “barometer” on how well the team is moving the ball. He said that’s been a process. How have you seen that play out?

Jaden McDaniels:

“It’s been well. We all can shoot, and we’re all versatile. I don’t really care who gets the ball or who shoots. As long as we win, I don’t care. But when you see us moving? Naz [Reid] had 31 [against the Lakers. ANT nearly had 30. Nickeil [Alexander]vWalker had 15. Everybody gets double digits. It’s hard to stop. I’m always ready. I don’t feel like I have to be ready. I’ll always be ready.”

In what ways has ANT taken a leap this season?

 

“Man, he’s just passing. He’s passing better. He’s like Michael Jordan. That’s all I can say. He’s like Michael Jordan. If you didn’t watch Mike, you can watch ANT.

In what ways does Mike remind you of ANT?

Jaden McDaniels:

“They’re relentless. They got the athleticism, fadeaways, mid range and all of that.”

How has ANT grown as a passer?

Jaden McDaniels:

“He’s making the right reads when he needs to. When there’s two on the ball, he’ll pass it. When there’s two in the lane, he’ll throw lobs to Rudy. He sees the floor. They say he can play quarterback.”

What’s your favorite dunk of his?

Jaden McDaniels:

“John Collins.” (laughs)

What went through your mind when he threw down like that?

Jaden McDaniels:

“I was getting real disrespectful. That’s all I can say. I watch the replay every day. It was wild.”

What’s the team’s confidence level that it has enough to get past teams like Denver and go on a championship run?

Jaden McDaniels:

“We match up with these teams well. When we play them, we do pretty well. I’m not really worried about the teams we play. If we play our way, we’ll win. We have a chance to win it all. Wait until the playoffs.”

What do you make of the notion that the team might not because of its playoff inexperience?

Jaden McDaniels:

“You have to throw that out the window, man. It’s all basketball at the end of the day. Our five versus their five, whoever we come across, we got a good matchup and we got a good game plan for them. We know what our teammates like to do. That’s pretty much it.”

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