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Consistency In an Inconsistent Role: Jordan McLaughlin’s 2021-22

Backcourt depth has tried to push the former USC guard away, but he continues to stick around.

Los Angeles Lakers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

For a while there, it looked like Jordan McLaughlin wasn't going to get back in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ rotation. In the first two months of the season, things were a bit out of sorts. His shot wasn’t falling and it seemed like there just weren’t enough point guard minutes to go around.

Which was unfortunate, considering the Wolves signed him to a three-year, $6.48 million contract just last summer. The length (two years + a non-guaranteed third year) signaled he’d locked up the backup point guard role going forward, but after Patrick Beverley was acquired things got a bit more complicated.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Miami Heat Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

Because Beverley came off the bench for his first four games, McLaughlin shifted into a third point guard role, which led to the former USC standout only playing about eight minutes a game. His minutes went up the next couple games, but he soon fell out of the rotation.

He averaged under two points a game during the first two months of the season and shot just 17.6% from three. His field goal percentage was also low, shooting 30.6% from the field.

It wasn’t until the team got ravaged by COVID that he was able to crack the rotation once again. He made two starts, in which he played 32 and 23 minutes.

In short, his playing time was sporadic until he filled in for D’Angelo Russell in late January. His play during that time earned him a spot back in the rotation, and he’s done well since early February to hold that spot.

His per-game numbers don’t stand out, but he brings a solid, consistent game to the table. You know what you’re getting with McLaughlin, a point guard that won't turn the ball over or make many mistakes, is capable defensively, and hustles, but isn’t much of a scorer. He’s quick enough to be able to attack the rim, but because of his size and frame it’s difficult to hang tough in the paint.

When I say “won't turn the ball over,” it’s pretty literal.

This season he had a stretch of 18 consecutive games without turning the ball over. He also had 58 assists during that time. His season assist-to-turnover ratio of 5.1 ranks second in the NBA behind former Wolf Tyus Jones.

As for his scoring, it’s inefficient. His 3-point percentage is at 23% for the season. Because the Wolves have capable shooters around him, it’s not ultra concerning.

McLaughlin’s ability to play with other guards has been key to maintaining his spot in the rotation, as he's played well when sharing the court with Russell.

Here’s a montage of the two catching sleeping defenders off guard with the same play:

Chris Finch has made it clear that he likes McLaughlin and that he wants to play him. It can be hard to maintain a rotation that is 11 guys deep, and that often leads to him stringing together a few DNPs.

But now that Beverley is signed on through next season, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with McLaughlin’s role next year. As for this year, it looks as if his playing time will be relatively inconsistent. Despite that, Wolves fans know what to expect when his number is called upon.