Miami Heat cut Briante Weber, Beno Udrih and decide to keep Rodney McGruder for final roster spot

MIAMI — With the preseason behind them, the Heat made their 15-man roster official Saturday.

The Heat waived point guards Beno Udrih and Briante Weber on Saturday afternoon to make room for shooting guard Rodney McGruder on the regular-season roster, according to a league source. McGruder won the the three-way battle over Udrih and Weber for the Heat’s 15th and final roster spot.

The Heat later confirmed the news, announcing they waived five players Saturday. Along with Udrih and Weber, Miami cut forward Okaro White, shooting guard Luis Montero and center Vashil Fernandez to reach the 15-man roster limit.

The Heat began the day with the NBA preseason-maximum of 20 players on their roster. The deadline for NBA rosters to be trimmed to the regular-season limit of 15 is Monday at 5 p.m.

“It is tough, because this is their livelihood,” coach Erik Spoelstra said Friday of making roster cuts. “And the guys in particular that have spent the entire summer with us, they’ve put in a lot of time investment, sweat investment with us, and we have reciprocated everything we have to offer to them, and serve and help them to become hopefully better basketball players. Ideally hopefully we can transition a lot of these guys and keep them in our umbrella, but we’ll see.”

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This Heat’s 15-man roster for the regular season is expected to look like this: Centers Hassan Whiteside and Willie Reed, Forwards Chris Bosh, Derrick Williams, James Johnson, Luke Babbitt, Josh McRoberts, Udonis Haslem and Justise Winslow, and guards Dion Waiters, Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington, Rodney McGruder and Goran Dragic.

With Miami cutting Udrih and Weber, Dragic is left as the only true point guard on the roster. But the emergence of Tyler Johnson as a reliable point guard made the move possible for the Heat, as Johnson finished the preseason with 14 assists and just three turnovers.

McGruder was a long shot to make the 15-man roster entering training camp, as many believed the final roster spot would be won by either Udrih and Weber. But as the preseason went on, McGruder’s name kept popping up as a possible candidate to make the regular-season roster.

A portrait of Rodney McGruder #17 of the Miami Heat on September 26, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

A portrait of Rodney McGruder #17 of the Miami Heat on September 26, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

McGruder turned in the best preseason of the three candidates vying for the final roster spot. The 25-year-old averaged 7.4 points and shot 34.6 percent from three-point range to go with 2.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 19.1 minutes per game.

“I do believe I gave it everything I had,” McGruder said Friday of his preseason. “I didn’t want to have any regrets. … I’m just trying to take full advantage of the opportunity that they gave me.”

The ability to shoot the three could be McGruder’s biggest strength. He made 34.6 percent of his 3-pointers in the preseason and made 38.4 percent of his 3-pointers for Sioux Falls last season in the D-League.

McGruder seemed to gain a noticeable edge in the competition after scoring 19 points and grabbing seven rebounds Thursday against the Hornets. Another factor helping McGruder, the Heat outscored opponents by 15 points while he was on the court this preseason.

By comparison, opponents outscored the Heat by 10 while Udrih was on the court and by 25 while Weber was on the court this preseason.

“Rodney reminds me, not necessarily the way he plays but his impact doing the little things that help you win, similar to Justise,” Spoelstra said earlier this week. “You don’t necessarily see his impact from the box score. He does a lot of little things and those little things add up and they become winning plays.”

McGruder has yet to play in an NBA regular-season game after going undrafted out of Kansas State in 2013. But McGruder has had training-camp tryouts with the Thunder and Celtics, played overseas in Hungary, and he’s participated on the summer league teams of the Bobcats, Heat, Magic and Warriors.

Although McGruder doesn’t have much NBA experience, he does have experience in the Heat system. He’s played on Miami’s summer league team the past two years and played a full season for the Heat’s D-League affiliate (Sioux Falls Skyforce) last year.

Based on McGruder’s contract, he’s currently guaranteed $150,000 from the Heat. But that number goes up to $300,000 if he is on the opening-night roster, $400,000 if he is on the roster on Dec. 1 and $543,471 if he is on the roster on Jan. 10.

“We’ve had him now for a couple summer leagues and a full season over at Sioux Falls, that’s invaluable time,” Spoelstra said of McGruder earlier this week. “He feels very comfortable in our system. Just in training camp this year and by playing two summer leagues and a whole season in Sioux Falls, I think he feels like a Miami Heat veteran.”

As for the five players who were cut, only one of them was on a guaranteed contract. The 34-year-old Udrih signed a one-year contract worth $1.6 million with the Heat this past summer and his full salary will count toward the Heat’s cap as dead money even though he was cut.

Weber could return to Sioux Falls if he goes unclaimed during the NBA’s 48-hour waiver process. Since he played for the Skyforce last season, his D-League rights would go back to the Heat’s affiliate.

But Weber has the right to decline a return to the D-League.

“I’ve grown a lot man, with this team especially,” Weber said Friday night of his experience with the Heat. “With the players, I’ve grown relationships that can’t be built overnight. I’ve found a bond with a special group of guys and we’ve just had a great experience. This is my first really competitive training camp, so I take the good with the bad and I still have a lot of learning to do. But at the end of the day, I feel like I played to the best of my capabilities.”

Weber averaged 3.1 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.4 steals 18.7 minutes per game this preseason. But the 23-year-old was not efficient offensively, finishing the preseason with 20 turnovers to his 23 assists and shot 30 percent from the field and 14.3 percent from three-point range.

The Heat also have the affiliate rights of Fernandez, Montero and White if they clear waivers as expected without being picked up by another NBA team. To take advantage of those affiliate rights and directly assign the three players to their NBA Development League affiliate, the Heat needed to make these cuts by 5 p.m. Saturday.

Fernandez and Montero have not been with the Heat for long, signing with Miami earlier this week.

Fernandez, who was signed Monday when rookie forward Stefan Jankovic was cut, played in the Heat’s final two preseason games and recorded a total of three points, one rebound and one steal in 14 minutes of action. Fernandez, 24, went undrafted this year after playing all four seasons at Valparaiso University and finishing as the program’s all-time leading shot blocker.

Montero, who was signed Tuesday when center Keith Benson was cut, also played in the Heat’s final two preseason games and finished with a total of nine points, three rebounds and three steals in 18 minutes of court time. The 23-year-old from the Dominican Republic appeared in 12 games with Portland last season and scored 14 points, grabbed four rebounds and had one assist in 42 minutes before being waived by the Trail Blazers last week.

White spent more time with the Heat, playing with Miami’s team at the Las Vegas summer league and signing a contract with the organization in July after spending the past two seasons overseas in Italy and Greece. The 24-year-old averaged 5.7 points and 4.3 rebounds in 9.8 minutes per game with the Heat this preseason.

“We hope that we can continue the relationship with some guys (in Sioux Falls),” Spoelstra said Friday. “But whatever happens, we feel they’ve helped themselves get better in this environment and we feel we’ve helped that process. We’ve really enjoyed working with all the guys, so that’s why we’re hoping it can continue.”

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