Contending teams in the NBA are anchored by stars, but are always searching for improvements on the margins. With the implications of the new CBA, that especially applies to highly-constrained teams like the Milwaukee Bucks moving forward.
One veteran worth considering to shore up those margins: Rodney McGruder.
While McGruder might be best known for being on the wrong end of Klay Thompson’s commentary, he has quietly played some of the best basketball of his career throughout the previous three seasons with the Detroit Pistons.
Shooting from range has become McGruder’s calling card during his Detroit tenure as he has made 41.2% of his three-point attempts, hitting 45.8% in 2020–2021 prior to recording averages of 39.7% and 42.3% throughout the past two seasons.
However, there is a caveat. McGruder’s playing time has been limited as Detroit’s staff develops young guards such as Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey. His 45.8% three-point mark came in a season in which he played just 16 games, and he has only played in more than 50 games once as a Piston. And while more than half of his shots come from behind the arc, McGruder’s 4.5 field goal attempts are a small sample size.
That being said, the Bucks can offer McGruder something the Pistons will not: consistent rotation minutes. Jon Horst and the front office have shown a willingness—for better or worse—to offer larger roles to veterans and journeymen who can perform at a high level in niche roles.
Putting shooters around Giannis Antetokounmpo is crucial to the franchise’s continued success, and McGruder’s spot-up performance over the past few seasons certainly warrants a closer look as he enters unrestricted free agency. Under the new CBA, the Bucks could sign McGruder for the $2.2 million veteran’s minimum given his six years of service, if he were interested in exiting a rebuild and inking a deal with another Central Division team.
McGruder is not a one-dimensional player, though. He cut his teeth under Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra’s regime in Miami after playing four years at Kansas State under hard-nosed, defensive-minded coaches Bob Huggins and Frank Martin. Backed by Antetokounmpo and potentially Brook Lopez, McGruder could be expected to hold his own on the perimeter. He can rebound well for a guard and logs less than one turnover per 36 minutes.
Additionally, McGruder has been relatively durable during recent years. While he will be 32 years old entering the 2023-2024 season—which wouldn’t resolve the fact that the Bucks rostered the oldest team in the NBA last season—McGruder is a low-mileage player due to his spot role in Detroit and has been relatively injury-free since his early time in the league.
A spring profile at The Athletic (paywall) highlighted McGruder as a consummate professional who stays ready for when his number is called. This summer, he may have a decision to make: continue serving in the role of mentor and veteran in Detroit, or pick up the phone when a contender dials him up.