Miami Heat

Heat mailbag: Has Rodney McGruder earned a rotation spot even when roster is healthy?

Heat coach Spoelstra : ‘’Rodney had a very good practice today’’

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra talks to the media about guard Rodney McGruder after practice on the third day of the Miami Heat training camp in preparation for the 2018-19 NBA season at FAU Arena on Thursday, September 27, 2018 in Boca Raton, FL.
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Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra talks to the media about guard Rodney McGruder after practice on the third day of the Miami Heat training camp in preparation for the 2018-19 NBA season at FAU Arena on Thursday, September 27, 2018 in Boca Raton, FL.

The Miami Herald’s Heat mailbag will be a weekly feature throughout the season and offseason. It’s here to answer your questions about the team, whatever those questions might be.

If you weren’t able to ask a question this time, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang). You can also email me at achiang@miamiherald.com.

@jmaxschwartz: What do you see as Rodney McGruder’s role once some of the guys come back from injury? Feel like he deserves a decent share of the minutes at this point.

Anthony Chiang: I think McGruder will be in the rotation even when the injured players return. I can’t see how the Heat can justify keeping McGruder on the bench at this point. So, let’s try to predict the rotation when (if) everybody is healthy.

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Assuming coach Erik Spoelstra uses a 10-man rotation, Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson, James Johnson, Hassan Whiteside and Kelly Olynyk are the five who are guaranteed consistent minutes at this point. Also, Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington and Dwyane Wade are probably safe bets to be in the rotation. That leaves Tyler Johnson, Bam Adebayo, Derrick Jones Jr. and McGruder vying for one open spot.

With Johnson, Whiteside and Olynyk already giving the Heat three front court options, Adebayo could find himself in a situational role. Jones has been playing well and brings athleticism and versatility to the court, but he will likely play a situational role, too, when the roster is healthy. That leaves Tyler Johnson and McGruder, and right now McGruder is playing better.

McGruder has turned himself into a complete player, averaging 14.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists to go along with his pesky defense and hustle. This doesn’t mean Tyler Johnson won’t play. A lot of things change over the course of the season. I’m merely predicting the Heat’s rotation if the injured players returned today.

The elephant in the room is the fact that Johnson will make $19.2 million this season compared to McGruder’s $1.5 million salary, but money shouldn’t dictate these on-court decisions.

Steven: Can Josh Richardson sustain this aggressiveness throughout the season?

Anthony: We’re going to find out over the next few months. But it’s obvious the Heat wants Richardson to keep playing aggressively on offense. After averaging 10.9 shot attempts last season, he’s averaging a team-high 21 shot attempts through two games. Goran Dragic is second with 16 shot attempts per game. Richardson has also posted a team-high usage rate (an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while on the court) of 25.5 percent in the first two games, which is up from the 17.5 percent usage rate he finished with last season.

All of this doesn’t mean that Richardson has been perfect, though. While he has been aggressive, he’s also shooting an inefficient 38.1 percent from the field and is averaging 10.5 three-point shot attempts per game. The shot selection has to improve a little. But this is the role the Heat wants to see Richardson in, and we’re going to find out if he’s ready. So far, he’s had plenty of bright moments.

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