The Best Sixth Man You Have Never Heard Of
Updated: Feb 17, 2020
Photo by Ned Dishman NBAE via Getty Images
It has been a long road for this journeyman who started his career as a collegiate athlete at the University of Tennessee. Jordan McRae was a four-year player at the university, averaging 13.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. He grew up in Hinesville, Georgia, a city with a little over 33,000 people near the south coast. The small city had only two high schools, so most of the attention that the superstar high school athlete garnered was from his powerhouse AAU team. At first, Jordan did not even want to play for this program. After all, he was completely content hooping with his friends on the weekends. After talking with his parents, he soon realized what he had to do. He knew that teaming up with future 3rd overall pick in the NBA draft, big man Derick Favors, and joining the AAU team would quick start his career.
"People, where I am from, do not get these opportunities," Jordan says, "Not a lot of guys were going to college where I am from."
After impressing multiple college coaches, and cracking the top 50 high schools’ recruits list, he decided to commit to the University of Tennessee. After struggling his first couple years to get his feet on the ground Jordan could have looked for other career opportunities, but he never doubted himself. He knew since high school that he was going to the NBA. So, he reached out to another Tennessee great, Tobias Harris, for advice and how to expand his game for the NBA. These conversations only elevated his game, and after a senior season in where he saw his numbers build off his solid junior year, his draft stock seemed to be high. He was a 6'5 shooting guard who could also slide in as a small forward, he could shoot, pass, and defend with almost a 7'0 wingspan. He was eventually picked with the 58th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs. Surrounded by his family and friends, his draft rights were traded from the Spurs to the Philadelphia 76ers. He took off in the summer league averaging over twenty-one points per game, to then hear that he did not make the team. He was heading to Australia to play in the NBL. He was frustrated, but it did not stop him from dominating Australia's play.
Fast forward almost two years, and Jordan was apart of another organization. He signed a 10-day contract with the Phoenix Suns. Jordan made his NBA debut on January 29th, 2016 and had 12 points, 4 assists, and 2 rebounds in twenty-five minutes against the New York Knicks. He only appeared in seven games for the Suns and rejoined the D League after his second 10-day contract expired. Jordan had to wait another year before he received the call of a lifetime: the chance to team up LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love with the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers.
McRae had his moments for the Cavs and showed a lot of flashes. He signed a multiyear deal with the team in March of 2016. On April 13, 2016, he dropped a career-high of thirty-six points filling in for Kyrie Irving as Kyrie, LeBron James, Kevin Love, and JR Smith all sat out for rest. The Cavaliers later went on to face the record-setting Golden State Warriors in the finals, where they defeated them in seven games after going down in the series three games to one. In the Cavaliers game three victory, the guard scored four points in his only appearance in the finals.
The next season, McRae appeared in thirty-seven games for Cleveland until he was released on March 1, 2017. He then signed with Saski Basonio; a team located in Spain. He only appeared in four games for the club until he injured his left shoulder which sidelined him for the rest of the season. He later parted ways with the team. At 27 years old McRae was without a home.
On September 20th, 2018. Jordan signed a two-way contract with the Washington Wizards. On January 18, 2019, McRae set the G-League on fire with a fifty-four-point performance. This later led the Wizards to convert his contract into a fully guaranteed one. He did not get solid minutes for the Wizards to finish the 2019 season, but Head Coach Scott Brooks implied that the best was yet to come for him.
Enter the 2019-2020 NBA season. Playing limited minutes in the first few games, McRae was averaging under five points per game to start the season. He then saw his minutes increase and he started to take off. The 6'5 guard was finally getting an opportunity. The first man off the bench, his December and January numbers have him at a combined fifteen points in a little over twenty-five minutes per game. He has had two twenty-nine-point games and a thirty-five-point game. His wingspan has also helped him not only become a great scorer, but also a great perimeter defender. Even though he has battled through injuries this season, this long journey has just started to reach its peak for Jordan. It seems to be a no brainer for the Wizards to qualify him an offer for next season. His future as an NBA role player looks bright for many years to come.
Update: According to multiple reports, Jordan McRae has been traded from the Washington Wizards to the Denver Nuggets for once UConn great Shabazz Napier right before the trade deadline. McRae fits in perfectly with the Nuggets' needs as they were searching for a wing player who could help them space the floor. From the Wizards perspective, this trade does not make a lot of sense. McRae was making under two million dollars this year, and he and Shabazz Napier are both twenty-eight years old. Napier, who played all of his games this season with the Minnesota Timberwolves before being traded to the Nuggets on February 5th, is averaging: fewer points, rebounds, and fewer steals while having a lower field goal percentage, and a lower three-point percentage than McRae. McRae will slot in to play solid minutes for a very good Nuggets ballclub that is currently third in the Western Conference with a 36-16 record.