Jordan McLaughlin has had one of the Trojans’ five greatest college careers. He lead a competitive program despite sanctions from the O.J. Mayo scandal, as well as the FBI probe on Melton. Though USC ultimately went out in the second round of the NIT last season, McLaughlin was the unquestioned leader of the team. McLaughlin was the primary ball-handler and distributor on court, and no other Trojan had within 6 assists of his 7.8 a game.
With McLaughlin now with the Nets Summer League team, head coach Andy Enfield will scramble to find pieces to replace his ball-handling, leadership, and shooting efficiency.
Jonah Mathews and Jordan Usher are the obvious candidates to replace McLaughlin’s shooting. They were the only two Trojans who hit more than 40% of their three’s last season, and they will each look to play greater roles in the offense next year. Beyond just shooting, talented freshman Kevin Porter will be expected to score as consistently, if not more, than McLaughlin did last year. Porter is an all around scorer who can hit three’s as well as finish at the rim.
McLaughlin’s ball-handling responsibility will likely fall to another freshman: Elijah Weaver. Weaver plays with a high basketball IQ, he makes all the right passes, and he is a smooth ball handler. Playing next to Anfernee Simons, the now Portland Trailblazer, likely prevented Weaver from showing off his true play-making potential in the AAU circuit. Weaver will likely serve as USC’s primary ball-handler and distributor for the coming season, while secondary ball-handlers like Jonah Mathews, Kevin Porter, and Derryk Thornton contribute to assisting the ball.
In short, JMac’s shooting and scoring will be replaced by a talented freshman and established three-point shooters. Elijah Weaver will likely take on the role as primary ball-handler and distributor, though other contributions will be necessary. Veterans returning to the team will have to step up as leaders, especially with such an accomplished class of freshman coming into the program.
Ultimately, McLaughlin’s production and intangibles cannot be replaced by one player. The Trojans’ next season will depend on how the team rallies around a mix of talented young freshman and returning veterans.