The Minnesota Timberwolves face a difficult situation at the end of the 2023-24 NBA season.
In the NBA, every player knows the importance of proving their worth in a contract year. Perhaps nobody on the Minnesota Timberwolves roster knows this more than Timberwolves backup reserve point guard Jordan McLaughlin, who scraped his way from the margins of the roster to earn a 3-year, $6,480,000 contract in 2021.
The upcoming season carries extra weight for McLaughlin as he enters the final year of his deal, with the future of the Timberwolves point guard position hanging in the balance at the same time.
Since signing his 3-year deal, McLaughlin really hasn’t had real competition for a true backup point guard role in Minnesota. He was the clear backup to former veteran point guard D’Angelo Russell, with veteran backup point guard Patrick Beverley being the only other point guard vying for minutes – more so in a combination-guard role rather than a true point guard role. Beverley supplied the defense that Russell could not. DLo scored points that Beverley could not. McLaughlin vied to be the best of both.
When the Timberwolves traded away Beverley, and then DLo, McLaughlin hoped to be the primary backup for veteran PG Mike Conley Jr. But his injury history and substandard performance throughout the 2022-23 NBA season has placed that at risk
McLaughlin may not make the team in 2024-25
McLaughlin must now face his stiffest competition for minutes this upcoming season, with the return of Conley and the acquisition of combination guard Shake Milton, who signed for the Wolves on a two-year, $10 million contract this offseason. Milton represents a real contender in a lead-ball handler role on this team.
On top of more competition, McLaughlin will need to return to his top form to earn minutes. Last season, McLaughlin saw his turnovers increase and saw dips in total field goal percentage, three-point shooting percentage, steals, and scoring from 2021-22. Injuries were definitely a factor in this past season, as McLaughlin dealt with a nagging calf injury throughout the year.
The long-term future of the point guard position is a real question mark for the Timberwolves right now. Mike Conley Jr. is 36 and in the last year of his deal, and there is currently no clear successor. The Timberwolves do not have a ‘Point Guard’ listed on their payroll for the 2024-25 season, although many believe that Eurorleague PG Matteo Spagnolo is being groomed for such a role.
With the uncertainty of the lead ball handler role in mind, the time is now for McLaughlin to claim his stake in the future of this team. He’s in a contract year, and the team has no concrete plan at point guard. With a strong performance this season, it’s completely reasonable that McLaughlin could earn an extension as a secondary point guard. However, if McLaughlin doesn’t regain his form of previous seasons, it’s entirely possible that the Wolves look elsewhere for their point guard needs.
McLaughlin has certainly earned a shot at a new contract with his previous play. This season will be a massive point in his career, and it will be interesting to watch how the point guard role evolves on this team over the course of the season.
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