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Undrafted Timberwolves Playoff Heroes

The world is just now learning about Jordan McLaughlin, but who were the predecessors before him that blazed the trail?

Those of us here at Canis Hoopus have long been fans of Jordan McLaughlin. JMac. Little Mac. McGlocklin. G-League Jordan. Michael Jordan McLaughlin. To mainstream media those who weren’t privy to what’s been unfolding with professional men’s basketball in Minnesota, they were surprised learn of a bench player that ultimately turned out to be a huge difference maker in game 4 of the Memphis Grizzlies-Minnesota Timberwolves series. In just 14 minutes, JMac turned up for 16 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 assists, all while missing just 1 shot attempt. He earned high praise from his young superstar teammate, Anthony Edwards, who called him one of the best teammates he’s ever had.

It wasn’t long before he was killing it in the national spotlight that he was paying his dues in the G-League, featuring long stints with the Iowa Wolves and Long Island Nets. The diminutive point guard went undrafted back in 2018 NBA draft and clawed his way into a NBA contract. McLaughlin’s hard work and results on the court was recognized by former Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations, Gersson Rosas, and current head coach Chris Finch, who both made it a priority to bring him back during the 2021 offseason.

That said, JMac wasn’t the first undrafted player, let alone point guard, who turned heads for the Wolves in postseason action. There’s actually been a number of unsung heroes who have gone from being on the outside of the NBA looking in, to providing vital contributions in the most pivotal games of Timberwolves history.

Reggie Slater (2001 Playoffs)

Joe Crawford and Reggie Slater joke around

I’ll be honest. I didn’t know anything about Reggie Slater prior to doing a deep dive on Basketball-Reference. The undrafted forward out of University of Wyoming spent a couple years abroad in Spain after not being selected in the 1992 NBA draft. He bounced around various NBA, CBA, and overseas teams before finding himself with the Timberwolves for the 2000-2001 season at the ripe age of 30. He appeared in 55 regular season contests, getting just 12.5 minutes per game, stuck on the depth chart behind Rasho Nesterović, Dean Garrett, LaPhonso Ellis, and some 6th year forward called Kevin Garnett

Slater’s shining moment came in the Wolves lone victory over Western Conference powerhouse, the San Antonio Spurs. With their backs against the wall, down 2-0 in the 1st round best of five series, the young up-and-coming Timberwolves entered the final quarter of game 3 with a miniscule 68-66 lead. The 6’7” big man had nothing in the box score through 3 quarters of play aside from a missed jumper, 2 rebounds, and 4 personal fouls. Fairly common for Slater. As the buzzer sounded for the final 12 minutes of play, Coach Flip Saunders decided to roll the dice on him anyway, giving him the nod to spell Kevin Garnett. It appeared to be a foolish move at first, as he would botch two quick shots at the rim within the first minute of play.

However, the career journeyman, just like his dreams of playing in the NBA, would refuse to quit.

A little pick-and-pop game with Terrell Brandon helped Slater uncork a couple jumpers. His rebounding and tenacity helped stave off David Robinson and Tim Duncan’s wishes for a sweep, as Slater would finish the game with tallies of 6 points, 6 rebounds, and a devilish 6 fouls. His single-game +/- was second on the team, at +12, above that of KG.

Apparently there’s no internet footage from that game, so here’s a highlight of him dunking on Dikembe Mutombo.

Troy Hudson (2003 Playoffs)

Troy Hudson talks to Flip Saunders Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

TroyT-Hud/Laker KillerHudson was once much more than an oft-injured running mate of Kevin Garnett’s on an oversized contract. He was my personal hero. I’ll save you all my stories of watching his highlights from the Timberwolves website on my 56K dial-up internet connection and mimicking them on my neighbor’s garage hoop, and get right to the good stuff.

In the 2003 playoffs, he had his defining NBA moment. Well, moments, to be exact. He averaged a monstrous 23.5 points, 2.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 1.3 steals per game on .415/.436/.947 splits that postseason. Though that FG% number might be an eye sore, he knocked down 2.8 three pointers per game at a volume (and accuracy) that was unprecedented for that era.

His masterpiece was in game 2 of the 5-game series against the Los Angeles Lakers. T-Hud went bonkers, draining pull-up jumper after pull-up jumper, all while slicing and dicing the Laker defense up with his passing. As Kevin Harlan put it, his “swashbuckling” performance had it all, including a buzzer beating 3-pointer that made Robert Horry truck a camera man in anger. The result was an astounding 37-point performance (3rd most in franchise history) on just 16 shot attempts (4 3PM, 15 FTM), with 2 rebounds, 10 dimes, and 2 steals.

Rumor has it that Derek Fisher is still having nightmares of this game.

Darrick Martin (2004 playoffs)

Lakets v Timberwolves

Would you have believed it if I told you that Darrick Martin had 3 different stints with the Timberwolves? After going undrafted in 1995, Martin began his career playing with the Sioux Fall Skyforce of the Continental Basketball Association (CBA), before they became a D/G-league team (Ironically enough, the Skyforce is where Troy Hudson ended his final competitive basketball days in 2012). Before the 1995-1996 NBA season was over, his performance would earn him multiple 10-day contract with the Timberwolves. It was a springboard for his career, as he ended up playing for 5 different teams in his next 6 years, followed by a season abroad in Italy.

Just like 1995, he would return to the NBA right to help the Wolves in their 2004 playoff run. He had played just 16 games for the Wolves during the regular season before equaling that same amount in the playoffs due to Sam Cassell’s nagging big balls dance hip injury.

Let’s pick it up there.

In game 2 of the Western Conference finals against the Karl Malone-Gary Payton iteration of the Lakers, Cassell would last only 43 seconds due to that same injury. This forced Martin into 37 minutes of action that night, by far the most minutes he would play for the Wolves that season.

Boy, did he answer the call.

With Minnesota fans all holding their collective breathes in hopes that the ailing Cassell would return, Martin would help Minnesota burst out to a 32-point quarter, tied for the most of any period that series, and an 8-point lead. He rode the adrenaline rush and helped offer a steady hand every minute he was out there, finishing with 15 points, 2 rebounds, and 6 assists. His most memorable moment was a buzzer beating field goal to end the half, just like Hudson. He even took a nasty elbow from noted terrible human being, Karl Malone.

This game helped the Wolves pull the series even 1-1 and brought hope to the franchise trying to survive without their all-star point guard, Cassell. Though Martin had a great showing in game 2, Flip still opted to give the majority of Cassell’s minutes to Wally Szczerbiak and Fred Hoiberg, as Martin only played 17.4 minutes the rest of the series.

By the end of it, Darrick Martin might best be remembered for being asked to do too much with limited minutes in the most important Timberwolves games in franchise history, but his bravery will certainly be remembered by fans like me.

I still fondly remember pre-pandemic times where I got to go watch Jordan McLaughlin dominate a G-league game in-person and can’t wait for my next opportunity to see the next diamond in the rough. Though McLaughlin is the most recent undrafted hero for the Wolves, it’s unlikely that he’ll be the last. Maybe Naz Reid has a signature moment. Maybe McKinley Wright IV breaks out next year. Maybe the Wolves scoop up Bronny James in 2024.

Until then, let’s all enjoy the JMac Show and show him the love that he deserves!