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Rodney McGruder at shooting guard could unlock effective Heat starting lineup

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Bring back the luck of 13-0 Okaro White at forward and use McGruder at the 2 position.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Okaro White’s ball-handling skills are liabilities, yet his win-lost record with the Miami Heat speaks for itself when he plays. Much of this success had to do with Dion Waiters’ return to action at the same time. What Okaro does bring to the table, which Josh Richardson lacks, is a fearlessness in the painted area.

Rodney McGruder shows no hesitation attacking the rim, rather he enjoys mixing it up with the trees. Rodney isn’t an elite dribbler, but he shows enough courage going mano-a-mano at the basket that defenders would double-team Goran Dragic less when has the ball. Unexpectedly, Luke Babbitt guards his man very tightly, chest-to-chest, giving little leeway to launch an easy shot.

What Okaro lacks in polish, a starting unit with him alongside Hassan Whiteside, Babbit, McGuder, and Dragic would be a blue-collar defensive unit that would wear down the other team’s starters. White, Dragic, and McGruder all thrive in fast-break, uptempo situations where speed matters more than skill. They would simply outrun and exhaust the opposition. Then the second unit would enter to continue the physical abuse. J-Rich is too soft and “tends to shy away from contact on both ends of the floor,” per scouting reports.

James Johnson sets the standard for the team’s fearless style. Waiters also embodies that. McGruder’s size fits the shooting guard position more so than a forward. What Okaro White lacks in ball-handling abilities, he makes up in outstanding quickness, grit and toughness in fighting for the ball.

Along with Hassan he would give the Miami Heat one of the elite rebounding duos in the NBA. Whiteside would also give his injured hand a rest and time to heal with another good eraser next to him.

Okaro White is not perfect, or even in Waiters’ class, but when he joined the Heat the team started their storied journey. McGruder at 2 guard and White at forward lack talent level, yet they are winners and never back down when facing adversity.

Without Waiters the Heat try to do too much. Okaro plays within his limited abilities. When Miami’s players accept what they can and can’t accomplish, the TEAM plays better.

White is a good-luck charm, who favors and helps Dragic play the uptempo style he prefers. Okaro stats stink, but he affects the flow of the game towards the fast running style of Dragic and McGruder.

The highly flattering article Rookie Recap: Josh Richardson Is Good, But How Close Can He Come To Great? makes a compelling case for Richardson’s future, with this caveat about his lack of confidence (could be due to playing alongside super-confident Dwyane Wade or Dion Waiters).

However, Richardson isn’t too much of a playmaker outside of the pick and roll. His ball handling is average at best and he doesn’t attempt to utilize his teammates’ strengths.

I’m not calling him a selfish player because he’s the farthest thing from that. What I am saying though is that he will pass the ball off to a teammate if nothing opens up for him. True playmakers will do everything they can to put their teammate in the best position to score or make a good play, and that’s just not Richardson’s style yet.

Richardson will have a difficult time next season when the Heat’s 2017 draft pick will be hyped as the future of the franchise. Miami may not want two injury-prone Joshes on their roster.

The Heat is far from elite, but the ending of this season has become must-watch entertainment for South Florida sports fans. The last eight regular-season games will determine who fans get to root for next season.