On Wednesday evening, the Iowa Wolves defeated the South Bay Lakers 147-140 in a game where points were seemingly piling up in a blink of an eye. This victory pushes the Wolves above .500 and just a game back from taking the 6th seed in the Western Conference from the Texas Legends.
Although that victory was a collective effort, as five players scored 20+ points, Timberwolves two-way player Jordan McLaughlin stood as the leader. In 31 minutes, the 6’1 guard put up 31 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and a steal on 8-16 from the field, 3-8 from 3 and 9-10 from the free-throw line. That performance stood out as the guard’s best scoring game since a 34 point output against the Salt Lake City Stars back on November 13th, 2019.
McLaughlin’s tremendous performance against South Bay was a heightened example of what has been an excellent 2019-20 season. In 20 games with Iowa, he’s averaging 17.1 points, 6 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 steals on 52% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc on 5.7 attempts per game. Those shooting averages have allowed him to maintain a 63% True Shooting Percentage (TS%), a nine percent improvement on the 54% that he maintained during his rookie year with Long Island.
That excellent TS% isn’t the only example of how he’s improved as a player since the 2018-19 season, where he put up 15 points, 4.9 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.6 steals on 42% from the field and 33% from 3. As someone with eyes, you’d realize that McLaughlin has made strides in every statistical category from per-game averages to shooting percentages.
His fantastic production has unsurprisingly has made a significant impact on Iowa’s offense. Currently, they’re six points per 100 possessions better when he’s on the court (112.1 points per 100) compared to when he’s either sitting on the sidelines or up in the NBA with the Minnesota Timberwolves (106.1 points per 100). To put that impact in perspective, those six points represent the difference between a team having the 3rd and 13th best offense in the G League.
McLaughlin’s tremendous impact on Iowa’s offense has been due to him being a smart and well-rounded offensive threat. That versatility is shown by how he’s been able to help out the team as an on-ball driver, perimeter shooter, transition, and as a facilitator. Among those traits, his work from beyond the arc is probably the most essential part of his offense.
That statement is due to two separate reasons. Perimeter jumpers represent a lot of his work on the offensive end, as 45% of his 253 shot attempts have come from beyond the arc. In addition to that, a stable perimeter shot gives him more opportunities to drive to the rim or facilitate as opposing defenses play him tight to prevent an open look.
Despite that additional attention, McLaughlin looks comfortable whenever he’s launching up a perimeter shot. That relaxed nature immediately becomes evident when you first lay eyes on his jumper. Although a little quirky with how his toes barely leave the ground, it’s still an easygoing jumper that’s quick and has a high release point. An example of his shooting process is seen in the play below as he nails a step-back jumper from the left elbow in the team’s recent game against Memphis.
As previously mentioned, his solid perimeter jumper has pushed the young guard to become a better on-ball driver. Because when opposing players play tight or closeout, McLaughlin has the quick first step needed to burst past that defender. Aside from quick acceleration, the 2nd year guard can change directions on a dime, which allows him to split a pick-and-roll or maneuver past that perimeter defender.
A visual sign of this is evident in the clip below from a different game against the Hustle. After maneuvering around a screen set by James Webb III in a relaxed fashion, our subject used his quick first step to move left and burst past two Memphis defenders. With the opposition in his dust, the two-way guard uses the wide-open path to the paint to finish with a right-handed finger roll.
While the 6’1 guard currently leads Iowa in points per game, his primary role within the team’s offense would still be as a facilitator. That fact is evident from how he’s currently averaging a team-high 6.0 assists per game with a 2.3 Ast/TO ratio. While behind-the-back or no-look feeds aren’t part of his arsenal, he makes up for that lack of flashiness through extremely competence.
That’s most evident when he’s working in the pick-and-roll as the 2nd year guard looks like an NBA veteran in these situations. For one, he regularly moves away from the paint after the set screen, which captures the attention of the defense as they’re anticipating a potential drive. With the roll man now having an open lane, this allows McLaughlin to stop and throw a pocket pass to his man.
Alongside his ability to feed teammates in the pick-and-roll, the USC alum is also solid at facilitating while driving to the rim. Once again, this process begins by him being able to use his skills as a driver to capture the defense’s attention. An example of this is evident in the clip below, as his probe to the paint catches the attention of two defenders, which allows Tyus Battle to cut the other side of the court. Those teammates meet in the paint as our subject dishes it off to the former Syracuse forward, who finishes with a reverse layup.
Moving over to the other side of the court, McLaughlin honestly stands as one of the best perimeter defenders in the G League. Despite standing as an undersized 6’1 guard with a 6’3 wingspan, he’s still able to excel through being a smart defender that works his ass off. That tremendous is evident through his willingness to switch onto other players, as he’s shown an ability to defend anyone from 6’2 Ahmad Caver on the perimeter to guarding 6’9 Jarrod Uthoff on the low-post.
In addition to his ability to switch onto other players, the young guard stands as an excellent perimeter defender. McLaughlin seems to see each possession as a battle through how he fights through screens or uses his quick hands to force a turnover. That second trait has probably worked out the most as he’s currently averaging a career-high 2.3 steals per game.
In a league where giants or high flyers steal the headlines, steady players like the 6’1 Wolves guard may get overlooked. However, that would be a shame as he stands as one of the most well-rounded players in the G League through his versatile offensive game and tremendous work on the defense. Although he may be spending most of the current season with Iowa, don’t be surprised if Jordan McLaughlin sticks in the NBA for 2020-21 and beyond.