Last year the starting five for Miami Heat's opening-night 108-96 win over the Orlando Magic were Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Justise Winslow, Luke Babbitt, and Hassan Whiteside. Rodney McGruder wasn’t inserted in the starting lineup until Nov. 15, which was Miami's sixth loss in a row.
Miami began the season with a 2-8 record in their first ten games, on the way to a 11-30 record in the first half of the schedule and the lottery later on. On Nov. 25 of last year, McGruder became a fixture among the starting five. The next four games, Nov. 26 to Dec. 1, the Heat scored over 100 points in every one.
One play against the Charlotte Hornets last night illustrates how McGruder contributes to the team with his hustle and court vision to create a basket out of nothing. In real-game action he steals an inbound passes and, with a quick-thinking pass, sets up James Johnson for the NBA Top Play of the Day.
Starting on Jan 13, 2017, the Heat scored 99 points or more for 19 consecutive games going with a starting lineup of Dragic, Waiters, McGruder, Babbitt and Whiteside. Part of the success came from executing high-percentage transition baskets, such as this one where McGruder dunks over 7'-0" Tyler Zeller.
Needless to say the physical skills of McGruder pale versus the athletic bigs on the Heat team. However the previous videos shows he can handle the challenge of keeping up with the fast-pace style in the NBA, where if a player snoozes, he loses. Notice that McGruder, along with Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson, all spent 4 years in college and are 26, 25 and 24 years old.
Adding Kelly Olynyk (26) and Waiters (25), the Heat have five players in their prime years (plus others on the roster) over the next five seasons. These five guys are Swiss-Army knives on the court, able to mix and match positions on the court, as they get to know each’s tendencies over time. In the next five seasons Justise Winslow (21) and Bam Adebayo (20) will gradually phase out Goran Dragic (31) and J. Johnson (30) in a hopefully smooth transition period.
McGruder has the Miami Heat, Udonis Haslem persona written all over him. This summer Pat Riley assembled a cast of performers in their prime, who could contend for the next five seasons, and are only "one player away" from a NBA Finals appearance.