After four years of playing for Kansas State, during which fans saw him go from supporting player to leading scorer, Rodney McGruder is now battling for a spot on the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that could use some added depth at guard after the departure of Kevin Martin.
His junior year was his finest as a college player. In his first year as the leading man, he averaged 15.8 points and 5.2 rebounds while shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from deep. He had less offensive support as a senior and his statistical production dipped slightly, but at just 6-foot-4 he managed to lead his team in rebounding.
His three-point shooting may not quite jump off the page, but things will be a bit easier for him as a pro. In college, he was asked to be his team’s primary scorer despite not really having the ball-handling or creativity to create his own shot. As such, he often had to sprint through a series of screens possession after possession to get open. On the Thunder, though, playing alongside Kevin Durant, Russell Westrbook and Reggie Jackson should give him plenty of wide-open looks as a spot-up shooter. Plus, his expertise in running off screens will help him out when the team runs more sophisticated offensive sets.
While he may not have the ideal size and athleticism to be a top-flight defender on the wing, he’s a very smart defensive player with a relentless work ethic. More importantly, he has good technique and doesn’t take possessions off on that end. He should be able to credibly defend shooting guards and small forwards as a pro, and he has shown an ability to play within his team’s defensive scheme.
McGruder won’t be a star in the NBA, but that’s fine. He can shoot, defend and protect the defensive glass, making him an ideal role player for an elite team with title aspirations.