Don't sleep on JaQuori McLaughlin

The Exhibit 10 signee might be the latest UDFA to make a name for himself

Perks from Reddit is back with the piece he was compelled to write… no, not by me, but by his personal interest in this promising player. Enjoy! - Eric

The Warriors have made a number of moves and non-moves this off-season that has fans feeling a range of emotions from excitement to exasperation, including the additions of the beloved Andre Igoudala, veteran role players Otto Porter Jr., and Nemanja Bjelica, and journeyman Chris Chiozza. Not to mention Steph Curry’s max extension and the departures of Kelly Oubre Jr., Kent Bazemore, Eric Paschall, Nico Mannion, Jordan Bell, and the infamous Alen Smailagić. But one of their additions has floated a bit under the radar and it’s time he got the spotlight he deserves.


Undrafted JaQuori McLaughlin out of UC Santa Barbara inked an Exhibit 10 deal with the Warriors shortly after the draft and made his debut last week for the Dubs during the two-day California Classic Summer League extravaganza.

The 23-year-old, 6’4 combo guard is a very intriguing prospect who put up an eye-opening 16.0ppg, 5.2apg, 3.5rpg, 1.5spg on .488/.408/.832 in his last season of college and will be someone to keep an eye out for with his three-level scoring and playmaking ability. 

Background

The Port Angeles-born McLaughlin was 2016’s Washington Mr. Basketball before committing to Oregon State where he started 30 games for the Beavers in his rookie season. However, during his sophomore year, he was unfortunately suffering from post-traumatic stress after witnessing a terrorist attack during Oregon State's summer trip to Spain, which affected his play on the court. Six games into that season he would leave the team and later transfer to UC Santa Barbara where he would spend the next three years of his eligibility collecting such accolades as Big West Player of the Year (2021), Big West Tournament MVP (2021), First-Team All-Big West (2021), and Honorable Mention All-American – AP (2021).

McLaughlin should already endear himself to fans given the fact that he’s a Warriors fan and turned down multiple offers after the draft to play for them.

“I had a lot of other teams offering me deals. Golden State was the best fit for me.”

“Just the playing side of it, the way they play, I’ve always loved the way they play,” McLaughlin said. “The winning culture they have as an organization. I’m a player that loves to win. That culture was huge for me. The opportunity for summer league, I’m going to play a lot of minutes and have a great group of guys around me for sure. … I’m super excited. It’s a dream come true to have this opportunity and I’m blessed to be in this position.”

Outside of the obvious talent he posses, McLaughlin comes across as someone very dedicated to the game of basketball and committed to improving as a player. He spoke on some of his off-season work and some of the influences on his game, including Steph Curry and his off-ball movement, in this in-depth interview with USA Today’s Bryan Kalbrosky.

“I was a good shooter coming in but he (trainer Joe Abunassar) is helping me tweak a few little things, like having a stronger base when I shoot and having a higher follow-through. I’m working on my consistency, shooting the same shot every single time, so that’s the main thing. They say it looks good, so I just want to keep it the same. But I’m just practicing ball screens, pick and rolls, handoffs and coming off screens.”

“I’ve always loved players like Jason Kidd and Magic Johnson. I watch highlights of guys like that and Chris Paul or Deron Williams. When I watch Stephen Curry, I try to work on moving without the ball as a guard who can play off-ball. Guys on defense don’t like to chase guys around a lot so I think it’s a great skill to have.”

“The Warriors are getting someone who is all about basketball. I don’t go out to parties. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t do any of that stuff. I just go to the gym every single day and get my work in and stay focused on basketball. That is my main priority. That is the only thing I want to do. I don’t really have any other hobbies except for basketball and hanging out with my family.”


Offense

Something that jumps out immediately when you watch McLaughlin play is his feel for the game and court vision. The difficulty of some of the passes he’s capable of pulling off, the smallest of windows and angles he’s able to find and thread passes through, the way he seels the floor, and everything he does with the ball just seems to be so effortless and at such a high level. His ability to create off-the-dribble not just for himself, but his teammates is able to generate so many open looks and great scoring opportunities for his team.

Stats at Oregon State and UCSB:

2016/17: 3.3apg/2.2tov (1.51 AST/TO) (21.0 AST%)

2018/19: 3.2apg/1.9tov (1.72 AST/TO) (18.5 AST%)

2019/20: 4.1apg/1.9tov (2.14 AST/TO) (24.5 AST%)

2020/21: 5.2apg/2.0tov (2.67 AST/TO) (31.5 AST%)

He steadily improved as a playmaker during his college career from season to season, increasing his assist-to-turnover ratio and assist percentage. His 5.2apg in his senior season was 95th percentile in his draft class along with his 97th percentile 2.67 AST/TO and 99th percentile 31.5 AST% (Source: Arsenault). He was one of three players including Davion Mitchell and Jose Alvarado to have a 2.0 or above AST/TO and an above 60% true shooting percentage in his draft class.

The other tantalizing aspect of McLaughlin’s games is his ability to put the ball in the basket at all three levels. He has a great feel for attacking the basket with an array of moves he can use to finish. He constantly lurks for putbacks. He is very effective at pulling up in the midrange and keeping players on hips where they can’t bother his shots as much.

There are some concerns that he doesn’t create enough space off the dribble due to some lack of athleticism and the need for a better handle, but his shot-creating and shot-making are already at an effective level, so improvement in those areas will only make him an even better player. At times his shot selection could be a bit better as well, but that’s just nitpicking at this point. His numbers across the board showcase high-level efficiency and steady improvement at every level.

Stats at Oregon State and UCSB:

2016/17: 40.1% ( 55/137 2PT)

2018/19: 37.7% (55/146 2PT)

2019/20: 46.7% (79/169 2PT)

2020/21: 53.3% (96/180 2PT)

If you’re not sold just yet take a look at how he graded in his draft class (Source: Arsenault):

  • 61.4% TS% (87th Percentile)

  • 1.023 PPP Overall Half-Court Offense (89th Percentile)

  • 0.965 PPP P&R Ball Handler (88th Percentile)

  • 1.298 PPP Catch and Shoot (90th Percentile)

  • 1.217 PPP Guarded Catch and Shoot Attempts (84th Percentile)

  • 1.0 PPP Mid Range 17 feet to 3PT Line (88th Percentile)

McLaughlin isn’t a lights-out sharpshooter and it wouldn’t hurt to speed up his release a little, but he makes his shots and cannot be given space on the three-point lane. He seems comfortable both off pull-ups and catch-and-shoot shots. He showed steady improvement with his 3-ball in college and so far it has looked good in Summer League.

Stats at Oregon State and UCSB:

2016/17: 36.7% (58/158 3PT)

2018/19: 34.3% (48/140 3PT)

2019/20: 40.8% (42/103 3PT)

2020/21: 40.7% (44/108 3PT)

Defense

The biggest turning point for whether or not McLaughlin can carve out a role in the NBA will be how much he can improve on the defensive end at the professional level. At 6’4, 190lbs he’s slightly bigger than the average point guard size, the position he will most likely play in the NBA given his defensive limitations and passing ability. However, he currently doesn’t have the athleticism to keep up with quicker guards and often is not capable of containing the first step. He also doesn’t quite have the size and strength to keep up with bigger players who will muscle through him. Furthermore, his off-ball defense has to get a lot better. Too often he will help at the wrong time and stray too far away from his assignment, leaving his man open for a wide-open shot. His off-ball awareness and help defensive instincts are two areas that must be improved and are also luckily areas that are correctable with focus and diligence.

Despite some of his defensive deficiencies, we have seen some hope for development on that end. In the latter part of the above compilation, there are some flashes of good defensive with a solid contest or a block/steal here and there. Throughout the California Classic series he was attentive and played with intensity despite having to guard explosive players like Davion Mitchell. And that effort continued in his Las Vegas Summer League debut where he had a number of good moments of defense against the Magic.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that McLaughlin possesses great offensive talent and with the right development and work ethic, he can definitely find himself playing in the NBA someday, it’s just a question of how soon.

On an Exhibit 10 deal the Warriors have the option of converting his contract into a two-way deal or if they were to waive him, offer him a bonus of up to $50k for signing in the G League and spending at least 60 days with the Santa Cruz Warriors (this is significant because G League contracts are only $35k).

If McLaughlin keeps up his play through the Las Vegas Summer League he will certainly make it all the way to training camp. The question will be if he can play his way into the Warriors’ plans and get his deal converted to a two-way.

As we took a look earlier at some two-way options, the Warriors historically have split their two-way spots between a young developmental project and an NBA/GL experienced, older fringe-NBA player. Chris Chiozza took the experienced spot when the Warriors reportedly signed him yesterday. Mannion has been assumed to take the developmental spot given that the Warriors extended a two-way qualifying offer for him, however, he officially signed with Italian team Virtus Bologna this morning.

This could open the door for McLaughlin to potentially take that developmental spot in training camp. But even if that doesn’t happen, it’s a good bet that we will see him in Santa Cruz either way (if he doesn’t get snatched up by another team) and hopefully we are able to watch him blossom into the player that he can become with his talent and work ethic.