Guard Rodney McGruder emerged from a three-way battle to claim the Heat’s final roster spot Saturday, beating out veteran guard Beno Udrih and promising young point guard Briante Weber.
The Heat reached the 15-player roster limit by cutting three others: Okaro White, Luis Montero and Vashil Fernandez.
The Heat’s staff likes the 26-year-old McGruder’s game and believes he is ready to contribute immediately, according to a source.
Whereas the Heat also was intriguing by Weber, there’s a belief that he needs more development and that he needs to play regularly for his game to evolve.
Despite being cut, Udrih will still make the $1.5 million veteran’s minimum. He sacrificed $90,000 in salary last season to keep the Heat under the luxury tax threshold.
McGruder, 6-5, went undrafted out of Kansas State in 2013 but has impressed in the NBA’s Development League, averaging 13.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 77 appearances, shooting 50.1 percent from the field and 37.5 percent on three-pointers.
Last season, he averaged 15.8 points during the regular season and 22.7 points in the playoffs, helping the Heat’s Development League team, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, win its first D-League championship.
He impressed the staff this preseason, averaging 7.4 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 152 minutes, shooting 41.1 percent from the field and 36.6 percent on three-pointers.
McGruder sustained a dilocated left middle finger in Friday’s preseason finale against Philadelphia, but coach Erik Spoelstrsa said he probably could have returned to the game if needed.
As for Weber, he was a dynamo defensively, with 19 steals in 149 preseason minutes. But his floor game was uneven (23 assists, 20 turnovers) and he shot 9 for 30 from the field and 1 for 7 on threes.
The Heat will assign Weber to join its D-League affiliate in South Dakota if he’s not claimed by another NBA team. Miami is responsible for $328,000 in guaranteed money on his contract.
Udrih accepted the Heat’s offer in August, eschewing a handful of opportunities overseas. He could be claimed by another NBA team.
White, Montero and Fernandez also are expected to be assigned to Sioux Falls, unless they take offers overseas.
The departures of Udrih and Weber leave the Heat without a natural point guard behind Goran Dragic. But Miami is comfortable using combo guards Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson in that role. Richardson is working his way back from a knee injury and isn’t expected to be available for Wednesday’s opener at Orlando.
Even though Chris Bosh is not playing and not with the team, the Heat must keep him on the roster until at least the second week of February in order to eventually clear his salary off the cap.
Here’s how the final roster breaks down:
• Power rotation players: Hassan Whiteside, Derrick Williams, Luke Babbitt, Willie Reed, Udonis Haslem, Josh McRoberts, James Johnson and Bosh.
• Wing players: Justise Winslow (who can also play power forward), Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Tyler Johnson, Richardson, Wayne Ellington and McGruder.
NEWS AND NOTES
• Spoelstra said Ellington likely will miss at least a day of practice with a right quadriceps contusion sustained during Friday’s game. Ellington called the injury a “pretty good bruise” and said he’s uncertain if he will be able to play in Wednesday’s opener.
•The Heat said Saturday there will be no change in the job status of Denasia Lawrence, a part-time Heat employee who knelt while she sang the National Anthem before Friday’s Heat preseason game. Lawrence, who works on the Heat’s game-night operations crew, wore a “Black Lives Matter” shirt while she sang the Anthem. The Heat was unaware that Lawrence planned to kneel while singing the Anthem.
“Right now, we’re seeing a war on Black & Brown bodies,” Lawrence wrote, among other things, in a Facebook post early Saturday. “We’re being unjustly killed and overly criminalized.”