After a blowout win over the Memphis Grizzlies, the Miami Heat are welcoming back Rodney McGruder to the lineup.
With just 22 games remaining in the season, the Miami Heat are regaining a key player from their 2017 campaign. Rodney McGruder is working his way back into the lineup after a left leg stress fracture sidelined him in the preseason.
Starting in 65 games for the Heat last year, McGruder’s absence has come with a drastically different starting lineup for Miami. Along with Dion Waiters and Luke Babbitt missing much of the 2018 season, only two-fifths of the Heat’s starting five remained – Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside.
In some senses, McGruder’s return is fortuitous this late in Miami’s season. Much of his playing time last year came during Miami’s extraordinary 30-11 stretch, that narrowly missed the playoffs. McGruder started the entirety of the run, contributing averages of 6.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.
McGruder’s first full speed action came yesterday during a Sioux Falls Force G-League Game. Scoring 16 points on 8-for-17 shooting from the field in 20 minutes, head coach Erik Spoelstra was elated that the Force could prep McGruder for a return to Miami.
“This is one of the points and benefits of running your own G-League team,” Spoelstra said. He continued, “To be able to develop players at all levels, including guys coming back from injury. He’s had a tremendous three-week period where he’s really been full scale.”
Assuming McGruder is back to 100 percent, he provides Miami some lineup diversification moving forward. Standing six-foot-four, McGruder is a tad undersized at the small forward position. Still, his experience guarding the position gives Miami the chance to play smaller, run-and-gun lineups.
Unfortunately for the Heat however, McGruder does little to improve Miami’s 3-point infatuation. McGruder shot 33.2 percent from downtown last year, on 2.8 attempts per game, which sits just under the team average of 35.9 percent this year.
Not one to get particularly hot from downtown – McGruder has never made more than three triples in a game during his time in Miami – the Heat will likely rely more on his ability to attack the basket and guard the perimeter.
Despite McGruder earning more starts last year, even Josh Richardson is ecstatic at his return.
“Rodney’s a tough player, he’s scrappy and he does the little stuff,” Richardson said to the Miami Herald. “Getting him back is definitely going to be good for us on the wing. We can throw him out there, he can guard the other team’s best player too.”
The Heat need to find a winning combination soon. Injuries have pushed Miami towards inconsistency this year, but McGruder’s return should bring new options to South Beach.