October is not the only way to measure progress for returning blue-chippers or to ponder how newly acquired veterans fit. It’s also an opportunity for the longshots; the players who were overlooked in June, throughout the summer, and may only have one crack at an NBA contract.
Enter Jordan McLaughlin, a 6’1” point guard from Los Angeles.
Like fellow undrafted rookie Theo Pinson, and several other current and former Brooklyn Nets who entered college in 2014, the USC product was big star in high school. He even made BallIsLife on YouTube at the time.
The skill-sets coveted by college scouts back then were his passing and defense. His head coach Dave Kleckner at Etiwanda High School burned one idea into young McLaughlin’s head, ‘If you don’t play defense, you don’t play.’
“Coach Dave Kleckner, he’s a good friend of mine who I still talk to to this day. He’s never played one possession of zone in his career as a coach,” McLaughlin said with a laugh.
Music to Kenny Atkinson’s ears.
After Etiwanda, McLaughlin put together a solid career at USC, where he averaged 12.9 points, 5.8 assists and 1.7 steals as a four-year starter, landing an All First-Team Pac-12 honor as a senior ... and the handle, ‘Best point guard out west.’
Even after dishing out 7.8 dimes per game in 2017-18 (third in the NCAA), McLaughlin went undrafted, but he made enough of an impression with the Nets’ summer league roster to earn an Exhibit-10 deal with the organization.
Meaning, if he’s cut by Brooklyn, his G League rights automatically go to the Long Island Nets. If he agrees to play in Uniondale, he’ll get a $50,000 signing bonus.
“When I played summer league with the Nets, I liked the system that they had here with the guards,” McLaughlin told NetsDaily at Media Day last Monday. “The energy between the coaches and the organization is up-and-coming and it’s great. The energy is fun and it makes you want to come and prepare yourself to be better.”
In Las Vegas, McLaughlin averaged 7.0 points and 4.2 assists per game, adding to his reputation of being both a pass-first point guard and tenacious defender, something the Nets liked when they scouted him ... as they told him when they signed him after summer league.
“They said that I’m a smart point guard, smart and heady, high I.Q., reads the game well,” McLaughin responded after being asked what the Nets told him they admired in his game. “They like what I brought to the table in Summer League and that’s being able to control the team, being able to spread the floor and I can shoot it a little bit as well.”
Here’s his highlights from Vegas...
Moreover, there’s McLaughlin’s leadership. He has been credited by reporters out west with reviving the USC basketball program and being at the heart of the team’s turnaround in 2018.
McLaughlin is justly proud of his L.A. point guard heritage. After all, the NBA’s last two MVP’s are Angeleno point guards Russell Westbrook and James Harden. And McLaughlin, Spencer Dinwiddie and Allen Crabbe are all products of the L.A. hoops scene. (McLaughlin and Crabbe also share a birthday, April 9.)
“I think it’ll help a lot,” McLaughlin says of how that Southern California experience could translate. “The Pac-12 is a very underrated conference. It’s known as a Power-Five but I don’t think it gets enough respect for what it is. It’s not televised much and even when it is, it’s a little later on this side of town.
“If you look some of the last top draft picks – (i.e. Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, DeAndre Ayton and Jaylen Brown) – they’re all from the Pac-12. There’s a lot of good competition there – it prepares you for whatever comes in front of you.”
In front of McLaughlin are the New York Knicks Wednesday night at Barclays Center. Also in front of him on the depth chart are D’Angelo Russell, Dinwiddie and Shabazz Napier.
McLaughlin’s made impressions in Southern California, in Las Vegas, and now he has to do it one more time in Brooklyn.