Now that the Clippers’ 2020 season has reached its disappointing end, 213Hoops will work through the roster player-by-player for our “Exit Interview” series. Today’s exit interview features reserve guard Rodney McGruder.
Weight: 205 pounds
Position: Shooting guard
Years in the NBA: 4
Key Stats: 3.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 0.6 assists, and 0.5 steals in 15.6 minutes per game across 56 games played (4 started) on 39.8/27/55.9 shooting splits.
Playoff Stats: 1.6 points, 0.8 rebounds, and 0.4 assists in 3.2 minutes per game across 5 games on 3/5 field goals and 2/3 from three.
Contract Status: Has 2 years and $10.3M left on his 3 year, $15M deal which he signed last summer.
Thomas covered Rodney’s pre-season expectations pretty well in our June check-in, so I won’t re-hash too much. But in short, his signing right before the 2019 playoffs that enabled the Clippers to re-sign him to a cost-effective deal last summer was widely praised both for the leveraging of the CBA/cap and for McGruder’s play itself. Coming off three seasons as a solid rotation player for decent Miami Heat teams, McGruder was expected to be a competent 9th or 10th man for the Clippers capable of an occasional big offensive performance along with decent defense.
Rodney had his worst NBA season for the Clippers, and it wasn’t particularly close. It started off poorly with a hamstring injury, and that injury threw his whole season off-balance. His defense was mostly fine (though probably a bit worse than expected), but his shooting cratered. A career 34.7% three-point shooter (on at least analyzable volume), Rodney shot a putrid 27% from deep in the 2020 season. And, somehow, it felt worse than that. He simply couldn’t be relied upon to hit open shots from deep – and nearly all of his looks from three were wide open. Considering half of his shots on the season came from long-range, those struggles made him a near-useless player offensively.
Maybe that seems harsh. McGruder is a smart cutter (something only he and the departed Moe Harkless did with any regularity) and has just enough ball-handling skills to provide some tertiary support in that area. He can hit lots of odd-looking shots around the rim, particularly floaters, and is at least capable of attacking closeouts. Of course, due to his poor shooting, most closeouts on him were soft, preventing him from getting to the rim as often as he did in Miami.
To McGruder’s credit, while his confidence from deep waned as the season went along, he always played with energy, especially on defense. A much better defender than the likes of Reggie Jackson, some Clippers fans called for McGruder to get minutes in the playoffs as the Clippers’ defense suffered. Unfortunately, Doc’s trust in McGruder was shaken, and McGruder only received a handful of garbage time minutes in the postseason.
Future with Clippers
Rodney is under contract for two more years at around $5M per year. Rodney’s future with the Clippers could play out in one of three ways. First, he could be used as ballast in a trade, with his salary combining with larger contracts such as Patrick Beverley’s or Lou Williams’ to get the Clippers an upgrade at guard. Second, he could live out his time on the Clippers as a benchwarmer and hype-guy who rarely checks in for games. Finally, and hopefully, this season is a blip, and he’s able to return as a reliable reserve over the life of his contract. There’s a good chance that this year’s performance was a bad fluke, and that Rodney is able to provide value in 2021 that he was not in 2020, especially considering the Clippers will have a new head coach in Tyronn Lue.