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.

Basic Information

Height: 6’4

Weight: 205 pounds

Position: Shooting guard

Age: 29

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.

Expectations

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.

Reality

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.

21 Comments

  • Avatar Thretch says:

    I’m hopeful that Rodney can provide more. He has had a much bigger role in the past (with Miami). I think he would be more effective with a better defined role; like a solid 9th man. But the hammy prevented that this past year. With PG’s recovery early in the season would have been a perfect situation to give Rodney the time to acclimate, but the hammy killed that.

    I’d like to see him start this season back in the situation last season should have been. As said above he does provide the cutting that is a dimension otherwise absent from this team.

    • Lucas Hann Lucas Hann says:

      It did kind of spoil things that when PG was out to start the season, both of our backup wings (Landry and Rodney) were also hurt. It didn’t cost the Clippers much in terms of wins/losses but you can’t help but think that Landry and Rodney being fully healthy and having strong starts to the season in expanded roles could have gone a long way towards them being confident and continuing to play well when the rotation tightened.

    • Robert Flom Robert Flom says:

      While I’d certainly be fine if the Clippers traded Rodney, I do think that between (hopefully) better health and a new coach, he could bounce back and provide a good bit more value next season.

      • Avatar chogokin says:

        It’s weird. Given how poorly he shot last season, I never would’ve thought McGruder (and not Trez) would be a guy I’d actually be ok w/ keeping around to rebuild his trade value. But I guess that’s because McGruder isn’t taking minutes away from Kawhi or PG13, whereas Trez is taking minutes from Zu (and simultaneously helping us lose). Although I guess it’s true that McGruder could theoretically steal minutes from Shamet – unlikely but possible.

        The biggest problem with the Clips’ guard rotation of Bev/Lou/Shamet/McGruder is that each of those guys is basically one dimensional – they’re either good on defense and not very good on offense (Bev/McGruder), or useful on offense but poor defensively (Lou/Shamet). We need more guys at the PG/SG position who can do both to make the lineups more flexible.

        • Avatar John Maclean says:

          I largely agree but I haven’t given up on Sham yet as a solid two way player. He has a high BB IQ and quick feet and has shown flashes of brilliance defensively. I also think he had a classic sophomore jinx this season especially with all the hype sucking the stability out of the arena. With a coach that isn’t nagging, bellyaching and wringing his hands at every turn I think he might chill and light it up. Only problem is he might be our best trade chip.

  • Avatar TheGreatestShowman says:

    Rodney is a good example of what we now know as the disconnect between Doc and the FO. The FO pulled a savvy move when they signed him after being cut by the heat. But Doc could never define a proper role for him. Then you see guys like Trey Burke and Torrey Craig play well in limited minutes against us, and understand just how a utility player can be positioned for success despite his limitations. Hope Ty can get something out Rodney.

    • Robert Flom Robert Flom says:

      I think this was certainly part of it. On the other hand, Rodney was just cold all year, and his confidence was really sapped because of it. I think the start-of-season injury was a bigger setback for him than Doc, but I do think a lot of role guys have struggled under Doc.

  • Darius Miles Forever Darius Miles Forever says:

    I like this type of guy who does all the little things.
    But the problem is that he’s not very versatile defensively. He’s an undersized SG who doesn’t have a long wingspan. A bit slow to guard quicker PGs (he did a great job against Morant in the regular season, though), a bit short to guard SGs and too small to guard SFs. He’s a calm version of Bev but I don’t want to see him guard bigger wings along with Lou. At this point, I just hate presence of Lou Williams.

  • Avatar Goons 1 says:

    He & that contract NEED to go! I honestly wouldn’t take him on a min deal..

    • Avatar chogokin says:

      2 yrs left at $5M per season? It’s not a good deal, but it’s not the type of contract that’s gonna be the main reason why the Clips miss out on a key FA or something. If anything the fact that he’s not entirely useless (he’s at least ok on defense), and that his contract is relatively short and not *that* expensive just means he could be really valuable in a trade to help balance out salaries.

      • Lucas Hann Lucas Hann says:

        The last year isn’t guaranteed. So it’s actually an expiring with what is essentially a team option, giving it extra value. And the guarantee date on that season is July 15th, so as long as they translate guarantee dates for the adjusted schedule it means the Clippers (or whoever he is traded to) can wait until the FA dust settles next off-season before deciding whether or not to keep him. Great for flexibility.

    • Lucas Hann Lucas Hann says:

      Wings are expensive in the NBA. Rodney was really bad last year but he graded out at about minimum-salary value. He was worse last season than, to compare underwhelming backup wings, Wesley Johnson was as a Clipper–but WeJo was an MLE guy.

      Look out at the guys who you can probably get for the min at SF this off-season: Abdel Nader? Mario Hezonja? Thabo? McGruder would get a min deal if he was on the market this summer. Hopefully he has enough of a bounce-back year that he has above-min value next summer.

      • Avatar Goons 1 says:

        Wouldn’t mind bringing him back if he atleast had good size but there’s way too many under sized guards on the roster as is..

        How much do you think Moe gets this off season?

        • Lucas Hann Lucas Hann says:

          Moe should be somewhere from taxpayer MLE to MLE–6-9M range, I would say. He might be one of many guys who this suppressed market isn’t kind to, so he takes a one-year deal to stay with the Knicks and tries his luck again next summer when more money will be thrown around.

  • Avatar mlslaw1 says:

    It’s all about the 3 ball for Rodney. His shot looked putrid at times but at other times the guy couldn’t miss. Wanna see that latter guy surface and with plenty of very likely offseason work, Rodney’s got a chance to be more than serviceable.

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