Jordan McLaughlin didn’t have a defined regular season role last year. He was the backup point guard one night and not getting any minutes the next. McLaughlin was somewhat of a liability at the beginning of the season; his lack of three-point shooting made it hard for him to get consistent minutes. However, his up-tempo pace and peskiness on defense made it hard for head coach Chris Finch to keep him on the bench.
Despite his early season struggles, we saw just how crucial McLaughlin is to this team during the first round of the playoffs last year. He earned himself minutes over former All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell. During Game 4 against the Memphis Grizzlies, McLaughlin was arguably Minnesota’s most important player in their 119-118 win, which knotted the series at 2-2. J-Mac put up 16 points on 4 of 4 from the arc in only 14 minutes played.
Because the Wolves traded Patrick Beverley, McLaughlin will have a more significant and consistent role this season. Hopefully, it will give him more opportunities to show that Game 4 wasn’t just a one-time showing.
Many don’t know much about McLaughlin’s basketball history. Minnesota wasn’t his first gig, and his path to the NBA was anything but straightforward.
Following an excellent four-year stint at USC, McLaughlin signed a Summer League deal with the Brooklyn Nets after going undrafted in 2018. McLaughlin later joined the Nets on a training camp deal. But Brooklyn waived him, and he signed with the Long Island Nets for the 2018-19 season.
McLaughlin would average 15 points per game, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds on 42% from the floor for Long Island that year. It was enough to land him a 2-way deal with the Timberwolves the following off-season.
Last year, McLaughlin earned a three-year deal with the Timberwolves after showing how much upside he truly had.
Little Mac’s journey to the NBA has been long and winding. But now he’s on a team in win-now mode, and he’s looking to be a big part of the rotation. What is going to make this year different for McLaughlin? And how will he fit with this new look Timberwolves team?
McLaughlin is a very fast-paced guard who loves running the pick-and-roll. Last year, he connected most with Naz Reid. But following the addition of Rudy Gobert, J-Mac should be champing at the bit to play alongside the three-time DPOY.
Think of the connection Mike Connelly and Gobert had in Utah. Connelly possesses a much different skillset than McLaughlin, but the way they ran the ran pick-and-roll with Gobert tells me something about how McLaughlin may play off of Rudy.
In addition to being a pick-and-roll threat, the added spacing on the roster will benefit McLaughlin’s inclination to attack the basket. The Wolves brought in sharpshooters Bryn Forbes and Austin Rivers this offseason to fill the hole Malik Beasley left behind. While having guys who can space the floor will help everyone on the roster, it significantly helps McLaughlin.
We saw that McLaughlin can nail the triple against Memphis in Game 4. However, he’s at his best driving to the cup. He can hit a quick floater or kick it out to the corner. Having a plan mid-air is most likely his best weapon. Realizing what the defense is giving you while attacking the paint is crucial for a player of McLaughlin’s stature. With Mac only standing at around 6’0″, having a good feel for the court at all times is key, especially when dealing in the painted area.
This season is going to be a make-or-break one for McLaughlin. With him now being Minnesota’s backup point off the bench, his time is now. He must prove to Wolves management that keeping him around amidst a must-win gear-up was the right choice. And with this new-look Timberwolves team, who to say he can’t do just that?