Name: Rodney McGruder
Years in the NBA: 4
Key stats: 3.3 points per game and 2.7 rebounds in 56 games last season, nearly all coming off the bench. McGruder averaged 15.6 minutes per night.
Future contract status: McGruder signed a three-year contract last year and he’s due to receive a cool $5 million next year.
McGruder is part of a long line of Clippers players who got to the NBA by the road less traveled, having played abroad and cut his teeth in the G League before getting his breakthrough with the Miami Heat in 2016. Did you know McGruder is already 29?
Still, the Clippers picked up McGruder off waivers in April 2019 and inked him to a big pay raise, and the shooting guard got some run during the season. But with the team full-strength or close to it, he was firmly in the third tier on the roster. That may point to the depth of the Clippers’ set-up, and McGruder had his moments, but given his limited role they were mostly fleeting.
McGruder’s role was as a floor-spacer when he was playing with the first or second unit, being ready for a catch and shoot 3-pointer. His best performance of the season came in November against the New Orleans Pelicans, where he made five 3-pointers and scored 20 points.
In addition, McGruder was clean with the ball, able to make the smart pass and not liable to create turnovers.
McGruder was picked up in part for his defense, and that was a bright spot on the year, with the numbers suggesting he was a top-10 defender on the Clippers.
Perhaps the biggest asset was the combination of working hard every time he was on the floor and bringing a calmness to the game. McGruder sometimes played alongside rookie Terence Mann and the duo had a yin-yang energy on the floor, Mann offering boundless energy to the point of chaos, McGruder the steady hand to keep the five on the floor focused in the moment. Every team needs a calm floor-spacer and that was McGruder’s role, no doubt about it.
For as much as McGruder was intended to be a 3-point assassin, his shooting numbers from range are woeful, in fact. He shot 27 percent from that distance for the Clippers, the worst among players on the team who made a 3-pointer during the season. He raised that up to 67 percent in the playoffs, but primarily because his playing time decreased and he made two of three attempts in the postseason.
Although he shot 52 percent from 2-point range during the regular season, McGruder’s overall shooting percentage on the season was 40 percent, second-worst on the team. All of his shooting percentages this season were the worst of his NBA career to date with a similar sample size, which probably means the low numbers were somewhat fluky and he could reasonably be expected to revert to his mean next season. Still, for a player who is counted on to make 3-pointers who is not hitting them, that’s a red flag, for sure.
Future with the Clippers:
McGruder remains under contract for two more seasons, but I don’t know that he necessarily will be back next season. New head coach Tyronn Lue is expected to make 3-pointers a bigger part of the Clippers’ game and unless McGruder can convince Lue his first season in LA was a blip, he may fall down the pecking order.
In addition, the Clippers need to make a change or two in the offseason and are most likely working the phones every day to that end. McGruder certainly wouldn’t be a key piece in a trade, but his deal could certainly be a makeweight for a deal as part of a package. Plus, he has a top-10 contract on the team but wasn’t typically in the 10-man rotation down the stretch of the season, so unless Lue sees something in him that Doc Rivers did not, McGruder’s role right now might be as a trade asset for the Clippers.
Overall Grade: B-
If you go by the eye test, McGruder performed his job well and was a useful deep bench player. But if you look at the numbers, they aren’t as kind, and while an underdog story is always one Clippers fans root for, the campaign was pretty much average for the shooting guard.