Timberwolves

Jordan McLaughlin Is Doing Something Historic Right Now

Photo Credit: Kelley L Cox (USA TODAY Sports)

What if I told you there was a player on the Minnesota Timberwolves who is on a historic run right now? You may assume it’s something to do with Anthony Edwards, right? Well, not today.

Today we are talking about Jordan McLaughlin.

McLaughlin has commanded the Wolves bench unit recently. For the first time in a long time, the Timberwolves have a solid bench. Although the reserves struggled early in the season, they’ve been incredibly efficient on offense in the past six games.

The lifeblood of this efficient run has been the uptick in minutes for J-Mac. Every unit needs a facilitating point guard, and the bench found theirs with McLaughlin. Almost every player’s 3-point shooting percentage elevates when he is on the floor.

For example

Why?

Speed.

McLaughlin’s average speed with the ball is 4.56 MPH, 17th among all active players. J-Mac likes to use his high-level speed to create pressure and push the pace.

Jordan ranks sixth in pace among all players with at least 25 games played. His pace of 103.49 ranks him just below Kent Bazemore but just above Josh Okogie. If you look at the top 10 players in pace, you’ll find several of them on Minnesota’s bench.

  • Okogie is 5th
  • Taurean Prince is 8th
  • Naz Reid is 10th

That means 40% of the top 10 players in pace are on the Wolves roster. It’s 50% if you include Leandro Bolmaro, who ranks first.

The overriding theme here is speed. So how does it manifest in a game?

Here’s a frame analysis from the Feb. 1 Denver Nuggets game. When J-Mac has the ball at the top of the arc, he’s looking to blow by his defender. Bones Hyland (3) is already in a poor position from a rotation. He’s looking to exploit JaMychal Green, who I’ve circled in blue, since he’s sagging off Reid.

Video and Shotcharts | Stats | NBA.com – Google Chrome

McLaughlin blows by his defender, Bones, who I’ve circled in red below. That leaves Green, who I’ve circled in blue, in a tough position. He can either help Bones in the paint, which he does, or contest the Naz three.

Video and Shotcharts | Stats | NBA.com – Google Chrome

McLaughlin’s speed is forcing the opposing team to make pressured decisions correctly.

Green, who I’ve circled in blue, gets a solid contest here. Still, that’s a highly efficient look that McLaughlin creates.

I didn’t cherry-pick those frames to fit an agenda. It took me maybe two minutes of watching McLaughlin’s film to find this. He does it all the time. Next time you see J-Mac on the court, I encourage you to look for when he collapses a defense with his speed.

“(Jordan McLaughlin) has been the MVP of our team in a lot of ways,” Chris Finch said before Minnesota’s Feb. 9 matchup against the Kings. Although it’s high praise, it’s accurate. The Wolves starters had been struggling, and J-Mac revived the bench unit. He led them to a 72-point game against the Sacramento Kings, two points off a franchise record.

His teammates are raving over him as well.

“J-Mac is a great point guard,” Beasley said after a 118-105 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Feb. 6. “I’ve always wanted him as my point guard.”

Beasley has had a particularly strong connection with McLaughlin. Beasley’s three-point percentage dramatically increases when J-Mac is on the floor, and nobody has converted more of McLaughlin’s passes into points.

Beasley isn’t alone in his praise for McLaughlin.

Ironically, J-Mac’s recent play creates a difficult situation. Most teams don’t use an 11-man rotation, and the Timberwolves haven’t had much luck running one either. So, where does J-Mac come in? Well, so far, Finch has opted to forgo Jaylen Nowell’s minutes in favor of McLaughlin.

Chris Finch had mentioned trying to bridge the difference between D’Angelo Russell and Patrick Beverley’s minutes by deploying McLaughlin. It’s been successful so far.

Although it’s a difficult decision, Prince, Nowell, and J-mac are all good options, so Finch should never be too upset with his decision on who to play. Once one player gets hot, play him. When he cools down, play the other.

McLaughlin has the hot hand right now. So the Wolves might as well ride him.

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