Sometimes it takes a while for players to find their niche in the NBA. It isn’t always easy, and team situations have a lot to do with that. Some players earn the moniker “journeyman” due to their nearly nomadic experience of bouncing from one team to another.
Some players spend their entire careers journeying from team-to-team. Others eventually find a more permanent home.
Jordan McRae was one of those players, having spent time with three NBA teams in two years before joining the Washington Wizards last season.
He was originally drafted by the San Antonio Spurs with the 58th pick of the 2015 NBA draft and immediately traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. He never actually suited up in a regular-season game for the Sixers. He played a couple of summer leagues with them and spent the 2015-16 preseason with them, but never made it to the final roster.
His journey since then has taken him to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Phoenix Suns, Australia, Spain and the G League. He had come back from Spain when the Wizards signed him to a two-way contract last season. He spent most of his time with the Capital City Go-Go, the Wizards G League affiliate, and set a G League scoring record with 54 points last January.
In the offseason, the Wizards converted his contract to a standard NBA deal, and so far, he’s been able to carve out a role as a productive player off the bench for a young team.
“It sounds cliché but I’m just out there playing as hard as I can,” McRae told Basketball Insiders. “I’m able to make plays score the ball when I have a chance to and really just try to put myself and the guys I’m out there with in the best opportunity.”
McRae has been out recently with a finger injury, but he passed an important deadline this month when the Wizards decided to fully guarantee his contract for the remainder of the season. Prior to his injury, he had been a bright spot for Washington’s second unit.
In 13 games this season, McRae was putting up 8.9 points per game on 47.3 percent shooting from the field and 39.4 percent from the three-point line. He was also pulling down 2.4 rebounds per game and dishing out 2.8 assists in 18.1 minutes per game. Those numbers are all career-highs save the three-point percentage; he shot 63.6 percent in 15 games with the Cavaliers during the 2015-16 season.
He was part of a bench group that had, to this point, been somewhat of a strength for the Wizards.
“With our second unit, we try to go out there and play as hard as possible. We just try to play team ball, we play to our advantages,” McRae told Basketball Insiders. “We move the ball well, we have guys who can really shoot and the floor is always spaced. We just try to play hard and fast.”
McRae’s professional basketball journey is a little bit different from many players currently in the NBA. While many of them remain stateside in hopes of finding an opportunity in the league, McRae decided to make the trek overseas.
After playing in the 2014 Summer League with the Sixers, he signed with Melbourne United of the National Basketball League (NBL) in Australia. He had a good showing, putting up 19.9 points per game on 44.1 percent shooting from the field, 4.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists.
He returned to the states for a couple of stints with the Cavaliers and Suns before heading back across the ocean to join the EuroLeague’s Saski Baskonia in Spain in 2017. He only suited up in four games, however, as a shoulder injury kept him out of the rest of the season. It was his first time dealing with something like that, but it gave him a different perspective.
“I was hurt the whole time I was there, but I learned a lot being hurt,” McRae told Basketball Insiders. “It was my first time ever sitting out. When you’re watching the game, you’re seeing it from a different lens.”
McRae has also experience in the G League. When he returned from Australia, he joined the then Delaware 87ers, who were the Sixers affiliate before becoming the Delaware Blue Coats. During his time in Delaware, he was named to the East All-Star team for the 2016 D-League All-Star Game.
While he was in Cleveland, he spent time with the Canton Charge. And of course, there was his time with Capital City last season. In the G League, McRae was leaned upon as a scorer and he had a few big scoring outbursts capped off by the 54 he dropped on the Maine Red Claws last season.
Being able to develop his scoring ability in the G League is something he believes has helped him find success with the Wizards this season.
“Sometimes on certain teams, you’re leaned on a little more to score, you’re leaned on to play make, you’re leaned on to do other things,” McRae told Basketball Insiders. “When I was in the G League, I was leaned on to score and I feel like that helps me out now.”
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