Jalen McDaniels is a frontcourt player for the Charlotte Hornets, who are off to a 5-14 start this season. He stands 6-foot-9, making him a switchable player in both forward positions. McDaniels attended San Diego State and was selected by the Hornets with the 52nd pick in 2019.
McDaniels isn't the only McDaniels in the league right now. He has a younger brother, Jaden, who plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Jaden is of similar height to his older brother. He was drafted higher than Jalen, with the Wolves using the 28th pick to draft him in 2020.
The Hornets and Wolves played Friday, and with Gordon Hayward out, Jalen started in his place. This became an opportunity for the brothers to start an NBA game against each other for the first time in their professional careers.
The Hornets held off the Timberwolves 110-108. Jalen had eight points, six rebounds and three assists in 31 minutes for Charlotte. Jaden had two points, four rebounds and two blocks in 24 minutes for Minnesota.
Jalen spent most of his time on the bench during his first three seasons. He's had 22 starts in his career and has shown signs of excellence. Jalen's brother, on the other hand, has been an on-and-off starter for Minnesota (77 starts in 152 games). However, this season, Jaden has become a full-time starter for the team, opening every game in the starting lineup.
After their acquisition of center Rudy Gobert over the summer, Jaden became the starting small forward for the Timberwolves.
Both McDaniels have shown that they can perform at a high level. For the Hornets, Jalen McDaniels was averaging 9.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists while shooting 42%, including 36.5% from 3-point range before Friday's game.
Jaden McDaniels has been even more impressive, averaging 11.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg and 1.4 apg while shooting 55.3%, including 37.7% from downtown.
Is Jalen McDaniels the more skilled brother?
Looking at McDaniels' career trajectory, it's easy to assume that the younger brother is a better player overall. But that doesn't mean that Jalen McDaniels isn't on the right path to becoming an effective NBA player. Through his first three seasons, he's proven that he can hang with the best players in the league.
Looking at the stats for the entire Hornets roster, McDaniels is their third-best defender, as he ranks third in defensive win shares with 0.6. He knows how to use his physical abilities, making him a great complimentary piece alongside the team's young core.
Right now, the younger McDaniels is a better player, but Jalen isn't far off.
It's still too early to say, but Jalen McDaniels could be a valued role player as his career progresses. With 3-and-D players becoming important in today's league, McDaniels could be one of the best in that category in the coming years.