When did Rodney McGruder become a good player?

Moses Moody (4) drives past Detroit Pistons guard Rodney McGruder (17). Mandatory Credit: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports
Moses Moody (4) drives past Detroit Pistons guard Rodney McGruder (17). Mandatory Credit: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports /

Unless you were a super fanatical follower of the Detroit Pistons, you might not even known that Rodney McGruder was actually in his second season with the team.  It’s not like he plays in, like, their games. But, suddenly, he is getting minutes has become a scoring machine _ after being traded away!

If there is any animosity about being sent back to a team that traded you, at least Rodney McGruder is taking it out on the opposition.

McGruder, a 6-foot-4 guard who has barely played for the Pistons since joining the team last year, was sent to Denver, along with a second-round pick, for forward Bol Bol. Three days later, the trade was voided, as Bol flunked his physical (a couple of days later it was announced Bol Bol was having foot surgery, and subsequently traded to the Celtics).

McGruder actually practiced once with the Nuggets, before the trade was voided and he had to return to Detroit. Instead of sulking, McGruder began balling.

In his first two games since his return from the Mile High City, McGruder averaged 17.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists. On an offense-starved team like Detroit, his scoring is very much appreciated.

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Until the trade, and his current scoring prowess, the only notable thing McGruder had done was get in a beef last year with Draymond Green and Klay Thompson when Detroit played the Warriors. McGruder says he has patched things up with Green.

It may not have been coincidental that coach Dwane Casey played McGruder for 22 minutes, the most he has played all season, when the Pistons faced the Warriors. McGruder responded, as he scored 19 points and was one of the few bright spots for Detroit in the game.

For his part, McGruder said he harbors no ill feelings toward the Pistons organization, and is happy to be back.

The way he has played, it looks like the Pistons won the (voided) trade, as Bol Bol is out for a while and McGruder is pouring in the points. But, the question must be asked: When did Rodney McGruder get good?

Rodney McGruder: From starter to Pistons benchwarmer

McGruder had been a starter for the Miami Heat in 2017 and 2019 and played a lot for the Clippers in the 2020 season. It was not until he came to Detroit for the 2020-21 season that he ended up deep on the bench.

Last season, he appeared in just 16 games and this year, despite so many players being out due to health & safety protocols, McGruder has only appeared in 19 of a possible 42 games.

But with Frank Jackson still out and Killian Hayes also becoming unavailable recently, there was a spot for McGruder as the shooting guard, and he shot really well.

When talking about McGruder’s role on the team, his leadership off-the-court is always mentioned. He is always credited with helping the young players as they adjust to life in the NBA.

So why hasn’t McGruder played more? Check the birth certificate.

He is a 30-year-old on a team building with youth. Playing McGruder does not help advance Detroit’s position for the future. But if he is happy to play when needed, and mentor the kids wisely, he can pick up a paycheck from the Pistons.

McGruder was a free agent last summer and re-signed with Detroit for a veteran minimum salary, so he must be happy with the arrangement.

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McGruder has shown he can play, and score, when called upon. He has also shown he can patiently wait his turn on the bench, while being a role model. That is why Rodney McGruder is good for the Pistons.