EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Hornets wing Jalen McDaniels has Suns showing interest, per report

Jan 10, 2023, 8:37 AM
Charlotte Hornets forward Jalen McDaniels (6) is guarded by Sacramento Kings forward Domantas Sabon...

Charlotte Hornets forward Jalen McDaniels (6) is guarded by Sacramento Kings forward Domantas Sabonis (10) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, Dec. 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Randall Benton)

(AP Photo/Randall Benton)

Judging by the public rumor mill, trade discussions regarding Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder remain at a slog a month out from the NBA trade deadline.

But a new team to watch from Phoenix’s perspective is now on the radar as the league standings clarify which franchises are in a messy postseason race and which might be ready to call themselves sellers.

The Charlotte Hornets at 11-30 are the third-worst team in the NBA, and that makes them candidates to sell. Among their valuable assets is 24-year-old wing Jalen McDaniels.

“Sources tell me that the Suns have emerged as a team with interest in McDaniels, among several others in recent weeks,” Shams Charania reported on Bally Sports’ The Rally.

Charania adds that McDaniels in theory could be weaved into a potential three-team trade involving Crowder, who on an expiring deal would likely want to be bought out or directed to a playoff-caliber team.

Monetarily, it would seemingly require another team to get a deal done with Crowder on a $10.2 million contract for this season and McDaniels making only $1.9 million.

Furthermore, McDaniels’ own contract situation raises questions for the Suns if they are indeed interested.

The 6-foot-9, 205-pound forward, like Phoenix forward Cam Johnson, is in his fourth NBA season and will be a free agent this coming summer.

Unlike Johnson, McDaniels was not a first-round pick and has a multi-year deal ending that will make him an unrestricted free agent. A Phoenix trade for him would appear to be a one-year rental — especially if the team locks in Johnson long-term after he enters restricted free agency in the summer.

McDaniels is averaging 10.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game in 26.5 minutes.

Playing 28 of 41 games off the bench for a bottom-dweller, McDaniels brings length and versatility on the defensive end with a little offensive pop.

The San Diego State product is a career 47% shooter who has been up and down from three, where he’s bobbed from around 34% in two seasons to 38% in his two others. That is on low volume, too.

The largest share of McDaniels’ offense comes near the rim, though a good chunk of that scoring comes off kickouts. He can catch, then take a couple of straight-line dribbles and get to the hoop, using his length to get off shots despite a lack of vertical pop.

While not anything fancy, that type of slashing coming off swings to the weakside would give the Suns something they currently don’t have.

McDaniels in theory could tap in next to Johnson or Torrey Craig with wing-heavy lineups, though he might be redundant — and a tad more refined offensively — than the latter.

To put more ice onto any potential Suns interest, it remains to be seen what Charlotte would want to receive in exchange for a player who has developed with a franchise that, at the moment, has few things worth being optimistic about.

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