An NBA Development League record 61-point eruption with the Delaware 87ers on Jan. 26 just helped Jordan McRae land an interesting audition.
Now, the only question is whether McRae, your textbook shooting guard, can stick and develop into an asset?
Where He's Been
Despite failing to generate much NBA buzz through four seasons at Tennessee, McRae's scoring attack has seemingly become more potent by the year. After playing just 5.3 minutes per game as a freshman in 2010-11, he went on to average 8.6 points as a sophomore, 15.7 as a junior and 18.7 as a senior—before the Philadelphia 76ers acquired him 58 picks deep into the 2014 draft.
McRae ultimately spent the majority of his time last year in Australia, where he put up 19.9 points a game. But the Sixers apparently never bought in. They waived him in October, allowing McRae to become an unrestricted free agent and a potential call-up for any organization.
“I can speak for a lot of guys who don’t make a team. For 95 percent of us, it’s our first time getting cut from anything,” McRae told NBA.com's Brian Kotloff on Tuesday. “It made me hungrier.”
The Suns, who are looking at a 14-33 record with Eric Bledsoe (knee surgery) out for the season and Brandon Knight out with a groin injury, were the first team to reward McRae's offensive outburst. Bringing him in was a no-brainer—a risk-free addition for a lottery franchise that has minutes to go around.
And his role in Phoenix—or with any other pro team he possibly plays for the in the future—should be well-defined from the start. His value to an NBA rotation will come in the form of instant offense off the bench, igniting a second unit.
What He Brings to the Table
McRae's identity is built around scoring and playmaking versatility (23.1 points, 5.2 assists per game in Delaware). With deep range, a pull-up game and smooth slashing ability, McRae can put up points in a hurry. He's also flashed strong passing IQ and the willingness to move the ball.
But he doesn't quite have one great skill in a league where role players traditionally have specialities. He's a good athlete, not an explosive one. And though he's not limited by any particular shot, he's not considered a reliable shooter, having converted less than 36 percent of his threes in Australia, the D-League and all four years in school.
Plus, at 179 pounds, finishing at the rim is no walk in the park.
For McRae, it's all led to some inconsistency and inefficiency over the years. Heavy workloads have also contributed—he registered a 30.3 percent usage rate his final season at Tennessee, a 29.0 percent rate this season in Delaware and a 31.1 last year overseas, per RealGM.com.
With Phoenix, McRae's role will be different in that his opportunities will come in spurts.
What to Expect
The good news: He's a dangerous transition player, and the Suns rank No. 4 in league pace, per ESPN.com's Hollinger stats. He'll have a good chance to give the team easy buckets when the game speeds up.
But his odds of adding something of real value to Phoenix—and the NBA in general—could come down to his shot-making consistency when the game slows down in the half court. In the D-League, he relied heavily on getting to the basket, having converted 133 of his 216 field goals within five feet, per NBA.com. But he hit just 32.2 percent of his 286 total jump-shot attempts.
McRae won't have the time or freedom to lean on his drive-and-attack game as an NBA reserve. He'll have to capitalize on his spot-ups and the stop-and-pop looks he gets within the team's offense.
He's certainly capable of catching fire around the perimeter. Though his percentages have been shaky, he's made 178 threes in 92 total games dating back to his final year in college. And with 6'5" size and a massive 7'½" wingspan, getting his shot off against pros shouldn't be much of a concern.
The fact that he's continuously improved his assist rate only increases his overall margin for error.
During this 10-day contract and beyond, he'll be looking to sell his ability to generate offense. There is a place in the league for players like McRae. He might want to take a page out of Will Barton's book in Denver. After years of looking to secure a stable gig in an NBA rotation, Barton has suddenly emerged as a productive streak-scoring reserve for the Nuggets.
If McRae is going to make it, it's going to be in a Jamal Crawford-like role that asks him to provide firepower off the bench.
And with Knight on the shelf and no real expectations surrounding the team, this is as good a chance as McRae will get to make some noise and a meaningful impression.