Philadelphia 76ers: The Path Of Jordan McRae Becoming A Champion

Apr 13, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Jordan McRae (12) drives against Detroit Pistons guard Steve Blake (22) in the third quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 13, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Jordan McRae (12) drives against Detroit Pistons guard Steve Blake (22) in the third quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

Former Philadelphia 76ers draftee Jordan McRae won a championship in Cleveland last season, and now is looking to earn more minutes.

There was a weird excitement about the Philadelphia 76ers acquiring guard Jordan McRae in the second-round of the 2014 NBA Draft. Maybe it was sarcastic excitement, or maybe it was due to his high production at Tennessee. Either way, there was something about McRae that brought an awe to the fanbase.

At Tennessee, McRae’s 13.3 points per game and 34.3% thee-point shooting gave him a label as a scorer. Tennessee was able to reach the Sweet Sixteen in his senior season, and he led the team in scoring and blocks. McRae’s momentum increased as the 2014 NBA Draft neared.

McRae was a draft and stash player. After being drafted by the San Antonio Spurs, he was acquired by the Philadelphia 76ers that same night. Spending his first season in the pros in Australia, McRae averaged 18.8 points per game for Melbourne United, which was good for second in the league. McRae’s eyes were still set on the NBA, and the team agreed to release him so he could finish the year playing for the NBA D-League Delaware 87ers.

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McRae’s scoring caught fire, and the prospect went viral within the Philadelphia sports realm. He averaged 18.4 points per game in 13 starts, shooting a scorching 37.8% from the outside. With the Philadelphia 76ers struggling at the guard position, it seemed like McRae was set to become a key rotational player in the 2015-16 season.

After signing a one-year tender with the team in the summer before that season, it was time for McRae to prove his scoring ability would elevate to the competition. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. McRae’s shooting struggled. Even though he finished within the top five in Utah Summer League scoring (played just one game in Vegas), he did so shooting 30.8% from the field.

McRae’s preseason did not see any improvement, and eventually he was cut by the Philadelphia 76ers. He immediately re-signed with the Delaware 87ers, and hope of him becoming a surprise find for the Sixers didn’t fade completely. He and Sean Kilpatrick combined to form the league’s most frightening scoring duo.

McRae took lest shots from the outside and saw a decrease of almost 8% from the outside. His scoring jumped up to an incredible 23.3 points per game and the NBA started to take notice of the low-cost, high-production possibility.

McRae was first scooped up by the Phoenix Suns, where he spent 7 games before getting cut. Per 36 minutes, McRae averaged 16.2 points per game, 4.4 assists, and 3.5 rebounds. He struggled with shooting from the outside and protecting the ball, and didn’t earn himself a second 10-day contract.

Luckily for him, the market for low-cost bench players was still large, and before he could re-settle in Delaware, the Cleveland Cavaliers called. In a strong system and a talented roster, McRae became a deep bench player with more efficiency. His usage and scoring numbers went down, but his percentages rose and turnovers decreased.

It was easy to tell things clicked between the Cavs and McRae. A chemistry the Philadelphia 76ers or Phoenix Suns weren’t able to obtain with the promising fromer second-rounder. McRae would spend most of the playoffs deep on the bench, with exception to the 4 minutes where he went 4 for 4 with 9 points over two games.

The Cleveland Cavaliers went on to come back and defeat the Golden State Warriors, who historically blew a 3-1 lead despite having the first unanimous MVP in Steph Curry. McRae got the ring as a rookie, but with not much proof that he is an established NBA bench player.

The summer came along and starting guard J.R. Smith spent his shirtless summer celebrating his first long-awaited championship, but he and the team still hadn’t agreed on a contract. As the fall season neared and Smith was still without an agreement, emphasis on Jordan McRae suddenly shot up.

McRae got his minutes in the team’s first preseason game against the Orlando Magic. In 24 minutes off the bench, McRae scored 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists on 8-13 shooting.

McRae’s performance isn’t a vindication of the Philadelphia 76ers rebuild, but it’s a story of how when given a shot, a man took an opportunity and ran with it. The Philadelphia 76ers gave prospects with little to no NBA hope and have given them a chance to prove their worth.

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McRae is proving his, post-Philadelphia. From being cut by the eventual historically bad Sixers, to becoming an NBA champion, McRae will try to flourish under a system he never thought he’d be a part of.