The LA Clippers roster was at 13 players after waiving Luc Mbah a Moute earlier this week. Another player who was waived at the league-wide deadline date for players on expiring deals was Miami Heat wing Rodney McGruder, who the Clippers picked up today.
McGruder is ineligible to play in the postseason because he was with a different team prior to March 1, so this is a move made with an eye towards the future. McGruder, who played college basketball at Kansas State, was undrafted in 2013 and spent three years playing overseas and in the G League.
He joined the Heat in 2016 on a three-year contract and was a net neutral role player in his first season. McGruder played 78 games, averaged 25.2 minutes per game, and made a name for himself on defense. Last season, he missed most of the year with a stress fracture in his left leg. He has been healthy in 2018-19, but with Miami projected to miss the playoffs, he became a cap-cutting casualty.
The Clippers are getting a player who has started most of his games in the NBA (112 out of 162). McGruder isn’t a great shooter (career average of 41.4 percent from the field and 34.8 percent from 3-point range), and he doesn’t score much — only 6.7 points per game. However, he follows a very modern shot profile, pretty much exclusively shooting in the paint or beyond the arc, and he is an excellent offensive rebounder, ranking in the 85th percentile or above over the last three years. McGruder’s teams have also always performed above average on the defensive end.
Again, the value of acquiring McGruder right now isn’t to pick up a mercenary for game 82 against the Utah Jazz. LA has grand free agency plans this summer, and part of the challenge of building a team around max-level superstars is finding solid depth pieces. As a restricted free agent, McGruder’s cap hold is $1,931,189, which is essentially insignificant when the salary cap projection is $109 million for next season. Provided the team extends McGruder a qualifying offer at that number, the Clippers will have the right to match any contract offer he receives from another team.
LA could also sign McGruder to a larger contract after the team has completed the rest of its offseason moves, which could be useful if the Clippers need mid-level salaries for trade purposes. Trade targets are always popping up out of nowhere in the NBA, so it’s nice to be ready.
As with pretty much every move LA has made this year, this is a smart asset management play that makes good use of the Clippers’ remaining roster spots, allowing them to take a look at a productive wing and creatively use their cap space for next season. Credit to the front office for taking a flier on McGruder now when he would have been almost impossible to acquire later on.
There’s also a potentially underrated benefit to this move, as pointed out by our Robert Flom. By claiming McGruder off of waivers, LA enabled Miami to get underneath the luxury tax for this season and reset the clock on the repeater tax.
Underrated: by doing this, the Clippers did the Heat a solid, moving them under the luxury tax. That’s the kind of thing that helps keep a FO well-regarded and in good favor with other teams.— Robert Flom (@RichHomieFlom) April 9, 2019