Jaden McDaniels was a surprise standout over the final two-thirds of last season for the Timberwolves. The 28th pick in the 2020 NBA draft, McDaniels went from little-used reserve as the beginning of the season to a starter who also served as Minnesota’s go-to defensive stopper.

And as good as he was, it’s important to remember McDaniels is still just 20 years old. The 6-foot-10 forward has a lot of room to grow his game, particularly defensively. That’s what Summer League is for. McDaniels, easily the best player on Minnesota’s Summer League roster, will be tasked with being ‘the guy’ throughout the Timberwolves’ time in Las Vegas, to see how he handles those situations.

Can he do it?

“We’ll find out soon enough, won’t we? Do I expect him to be? Obviously, I’m going to put him in a position for success, and then we’ll see what happens from there,” said Timberwolves assistant coach Joseph Blair, who will serve as the head coach for the Summer League Wolves. “My thing with Jaden, quite frankly, is I just want him to play as loose and freely as he can. … This is his time to be the man that’s coming off that draft class, at least for the Timberwolves. So I really want to give him an opportunity to shine as much as he can. But Jaden is a smart player. He’s going to play within the team setting, that’s just in his nature. So I am asking him to come out of his comfort zone a little bit more and be aggressive. So I’m hoping that he can show that and he can be that.”

It’s not like this will be the first time McDaniels is put in such a situation. Every NBA player was the best player on a team growing up. But it is another thing to handle such a role at this level. Still, McDaniels seems to have the requisite skill set. He has shown his defensive versatility, being able to guard positions one through four. He also has shown how prolific a catch-and-shoot guy he can be on the perimeter. But there also does seem to be a handling ability there.

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“I’m pretty comfortable (as the guy),” McDaniels said. “Just being the player I am — unselfish — and looking for my teammates, and then when it’s time to be aggressive and stuff like that, I knew when the time is, too. So really a role I feel like I’m ready for and I can accomplish and do pretty well at.”

Blair also wants to see McDaniels work more as the screener in the pick and roll, a role usually designated for Karl-Anthony Towns during the NBA season. But McDaniels would be dynamic in the screen game with his ability to roll as well as pop.

McDaniels said he has “a lot” he feels he can still show offensively, though that will come in steps. He noted he won’t come out and just start dribbling through isolation sets. He does envision himself, offensively, playing with a Paul George-type style.

“Just playing at my own pace with the ball, making the right reads and then, at times, just always staying aggressive when you have the opportunity with the ball in your hands,” McDaniels said.

McDaniels was hesitant to take on such a role at any point last season. That’s not to say he was ever asked to, but it’s also hard to get yourself to attack off the bounce and things of that nature when you’re playing alongside the likes of Towns, D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Anthony Edwards. It’s only natural for your first instinct to be to defer. Blair said this Summer League experience — with the Timberwolves’ first game in Las Vegas coming at 6 p.m. Monday against San Antonio — should help build McDaniels’ confidence on the offensive end.

“So if he’s ever in those situations, he doesn’t defer to someone else,” Blair said. “There’s also times when he’s in there and he’s not playing with the starters, so this gives him opportunity to feel confident enough so that when he is out there with someone who doesn’t shoot a lot of shots that he should be comfortable handling the ball, shooting the shots, attacking the rim a little bit more, as well. That’s one thing he didn’t do as much last year.”

Perhaps he’ll show that, and more, in Las Vegas.

“You’ll see little bits and pieces of things I’ve been working on,” McDaniels said. “Just excited to be able to play.”