Sometimes landing a spot in the NBA is like trying to solve a difficult puzzle. A member of last year’s Sioux Falls Skyforce title-winning team is trying to make all the pieces fit.

No one is going to mistake Rodney McGruder for the next Dwayne Wade, but the shooting guard from Kansas State will get his chance to fill the void as the future Hall of Famer heads to Chicago in free agency. It’s also possible McGruder will have one less obstacle in his way to donning a Miami Heat uniform this fall.

McGruder appeared in 48 games (44 starts) with the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA Development League last season, averaging 15.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.38 steals and 37.5 minutes, while shooting 51.3 percent from the field, 38.4 percent from three-point range and 73.9 percent from the free throw line. He led the team in points (758), field goals made (290), three-point field goals made (93) and plus-minus (+367), and finished second on the team in steals (66) and third in rebounds (255). Additionally, he scored in double-figures 40 times, including 14 20-point games and two 30-point games, while helping the Skyforce to a D-League record 40 wins. In the playoffs, he appeared in seven games (all starts), averaging 22.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 42.3 minutes, while shooting 50.9 percent from the field and 37.3 percent from three-point range en route to the Skyforce’s first NBA D-League championship in franchise history.

Prior to joining Sioux Falls in March of 2015, McGruder was let go by the Maine Red Claws who obtained the former Wildcat through allocation from the Boston Celtics out of training camp in 2014. The year before, McGruder played in Hungary after being cut from Oklahoma City’s preseason roster.

A youth movement for the Heat seems to be the trend as McGruder would join Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow and Briante Weber in the backcourt with all four being solid defenders with room to grow offensively. Former Skyforce guard Tyler Johnson’s status could also play a role as the Heat need to decide if they want to match a 4-year $50 million offer from the Brooklyn Nets.

To witness McGruder’s transformation over the past twelve months is striking. He has formed his game into the ‘3 and D’ mold that has become widely accepted in the NBA plus he has developed the ability to score in transition and creatively score in the paint. As the Skyforce rambled toward the NBADL title, McGruder was considered the cohesive element of the campaign. The two games in which McGruder missed due to injury, Sioux Falls lost both.

Miami placed him on their Summer League squad and recently turned in a 14 point, 6 rebound performance on 6 of 11 shooting. Thus the McGruder watch for the Heat that began when their affiliate picked him up down the stretch in 2015 could be another one of those hidden gems that Miami continues to mine from the Sioux Falls Skyforce.


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