The Detroit Pistons succumbed to the inevitable, with a report late Monday night indicating the team was re-signing veteran guard Rodney McGruder and inviting him to training camp. Klay Thompson will just have to deal with it.
I don’t want to say I told you so, but I kinda told you so all the way back on March 29.
I'm 100% certain Rodney McGruder will be a Piston next season.— Sean Corp (@sean_corp) March 30, 2022
Was this based on special knowledge? Do I have sources deep within the Detroit Pistons front office? Goodness, no. I am just a sentient human being who saw firsthand how well McGruder ingratiated himself to his teammates, how effective he was in a spots-minutes role off the bench, and how desperate this team is for reliable 3-point shooting. I also saw Las Vegas Summer League with eyes wide open and saw Saben Lee really struggle on the floor as a shooter and as a point guard.
The move, first reported by Keith Smith and confirmed elsewhere, pushes the Pistons roster to 19 players, per Smith, but that includes Kemba Walker who still is likely to be bought out if he is not packaged as part of a larger trade.
The roster limit is 15 players and we can pretty easily see who will surely be on the Pistons, again barring a trade, and who is fighting with McGruder for the final playoff spot. Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Livers, Isaiah Stewart, Killian Hayes, Alec Burks, Kelly Olynyk, Jalen Duren, Marvin Bagley III, Hamidou Diallo, Nerlens Noel and Kevin Knox are pretty well locked in. That is already 13 players. That leaves Cory Joseph, Saben Lee and Rodney McGruder fighting for two spots.
Both Joseph and Lee are on guaranteed contracts with Joseph set to earn $5.1 million and Lee $1.7 million. Both Joseph and McGruder would be asked to fill a veteran, mentor guard off the bench role for Detroit. Joseph has been a big-minutes player most of his career with no season under 1,400 minutes played since 2013-14. McGruder played just over 750 minutes last season off the bench for Detroit. Both players shot roughly 40% from 3, but McGruder saw much higher volume with over 60% of his shots coming from distance.
Then we have Lee. He’s the upside guy at just 23 years old, and while he’s shown the ability to dominate at the G League level in the two years since being drafted out of Vanderbilt, he’s largely struggled with a suspect jumper and when asked to quarterback an offense.
Frankly, this move sounds like Troy Weaver saying, I think we have plenty of prospects at the guard position and it might be wise to bolster the rotation with more stability than upside. In other words, Lee’s days with the Detroit Pistons might be numbered. The team already has Cunningham and Ivey seemingly locked into the starting positions and Hayes fighting to cement himself at backup point guard. There might just be no more room for Lee to continue to develop.
Either that or the Pistons are just doing a solid for the veteran McGruder and giving him a camp invite with a decent chance at making an NBA team but still leaning toward committing to the youth already on the roster.
But if I can adopt the persona of myself from way back in March, I would say there is STILL a 100% chance Rodney McGruder will be a Piston next season. Whether that happens because they are ready to package some vets (Joseph, Walker, Noel, for example) in a trade that will open up room for McGruder, or if Rodney simply outplays Lee for that final spot remains to be seen.