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L.A. Clippers 2019-20 Player Preview: Rodney McGruder was born to be a Clipper

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McGruder’s toughness and defensive edge make him a natural fit on this roster.

Los Angeles Clippers Media Day Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Basic Information:

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 200 lbs

Age: 28 years old

Position: guard

NBA experience: 3 years

Key stats: McGruder averaged 23.5 minutes per game in 66 appearances for the Miami Heat last season. He shot 45.7% on 2-pointers and 34.5% on 3-point jumpers. McGruder also chipped in 3.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 0.5 steals per game.

Contract status: McGruder agreed to a 3-year, $15 million contract with the Clippers this offseason with a non-guaranteed third year.

Expectations:

The Clippers’ acquisition of Rodney McGruder last season was a bit of a flex. The team had its roster set for the postseason, but decided to pick up McGruder anyway with eyes on the upcoming year. The thought was that a few weeks spent alongside a playoff team would sell McGruder on the Clippers’ culture and convince him to re-sign during the offseason, which is exactly what happened. The Clippers got an inside track on signing a rotation-caliber wing without sacrificing salary cap space, all at the cost of the 14th spot on their roster for one regular season game.

“I will say just being a part of this team in that playoff run, I just got to experience the culture and the way things happen here,” McGruder said on media day. “It was an easy decision to make come free agency time because I wanted to be part of this culture. I love the way guys play, love practices, how everything went, I love the way Doc coached. It just made it very simple for me.”

McGruder comes from a Miami Heat organization that emphasizes hard work, and the fourth-year wing has been hailed as a true product of that environment. He has gone from being undrafted to being coveted by a championship contender. His work ethic should enable him to fit right in alongside Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell in the Clippers bench mob.

Multiple Clippers expressed how McGruder already felt like a part of the roster even though he was contractually unable to play at the end of last season. He still sat on the bench for the last game of the regular season and traveled with the team during the first round series against Golden State.

“Rodney, he was getting in every day like we did and he was working hard even though he couldn’t play with us,” Ivica Zubac said. “He was always on the bench supporting us, so he felt like a part of the team from day one.”

Now that McGruder can actually join the team on the court, the Clippers will be getting a feisty defender who excels at covering smaller perimeter players. When tasked with defending larger wings, he has some struggles due to his lack of size and length, but that shouldn’t be a problem on this particular roster. Presumably one of Kawhi Leonard or Paul George will be on the floor at all times, allowing McGruder to play to his strengths and defend guards.

The former Miami Heat guard isn’t much of a threat as a pull-up shooter, but he is adequate from the corners. McGruder took 47% of his shots from 3-point range last year, including 18% from the corner, where he shot 35%. The key to any bench player around Harrell and Williams is the ability to space the floor and allow Harrell unfettered access to the rim, and McGruder is a respectable enough shooter to warrant being guarded in the corner.

McGruder doesn’t reliably generate his own offense — his floater and finishing around the basket are a little bit below average. However, he has the ability to run a basic pick-and-roll, and might find more success on a team with multiple offensive options. On Sunday, he spoke about the chemistry he has developed with the lob threats on this team given the glut of athletic bigs on the Clippers.

Nevertheless, whatever offense McGruder gives is gravy. He is a Clipper because of the toughness and edge he brings to the court, specifically on the defensive end. McGruder was part of a Miami team that came into Los Angeles last December with only eight healthy bodies and stonewalled the Clippers to the tune of 8 fourth-quarter points, and his activity at the top of the zone gave the Clippers’ fits. That type of performance is indicative of what the team expects from McGruder this season. The Clippers want to maintain their scrappy mentality from a year ago, and McGruder perfectly fits that mold.