Former Gophers guard Grier faces a pair of hurdles in quest to play in NBA

Vincent Grier averaged 16.9 points a game in two years at Minnesota.

C.J. Spang

It wasn’t surprising to see Vincent Grier sign a contract with the Miami Heat after being passed over in the NBA Draft in June.

After all, he led the Big Ten in steals and was Minnesota’s go-to guy during his two years here.

It would be surprising, however, to see the former Gophers guard suit up for the Heat anytime soon – especially after a mediocre showing in the Pepsi Pro Summer League in Orlando, Fla.

Grier started all four games he played in, averaging 6.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game while shooting 40 percent from the field.

Granted, Grier outplayed the other rookie guards that the Heat signed before the Summer League – Notre Dame’s Chris Quinn, West Virginia’s Mike Gansey and Michigan’s Daniel Horton – but his numbers didn’t put him much farther ahead of the pack.

While there’s no question that Grier’s defensive ability is phenomenal and most likely was the biggest reason he was signed in the first place, it’s probably not going to be enough to earn him a roster spot.

His eight steals this summer were second on the team behind forward Dorell Wright, who came right out of high school and has played sparingly for Miami the past two seasons.

However, there was one glaring problem with Grier’s game this summer – his free-throw shooting.

During his career at Minnesota, Grier shot 73.2 percent from the charity stripe. This summer, he shot a dismal 54.5 percent (12 of 22) – one of the worst percentages on the team.

His free-throw shooting looks even worse when you consider 7-foot, 245-pound center Earl Barron shot 88.7 percent from the free-throw line, missing just six free throws, (47 of 53), in five games.

And while free throws are always important in basketball, this year’s NBA Finals made it look even more important.

In the Heat’s 101-100 victory in Game 5, All-Star guard Dwyane Wade was 21-of-25 from the line and he followed it up with a 16-for-21 night in a Game 6 win.

Those two nights were prime examples of the changing game play in the NBA.

Fouls are being called more often, and players who can create off the dribble and get to the free-throw line are a hot commodity.

That was a staple of Grier’s game in college, especially considering his less-than-average jump shot.

So when he shoots just 54.5 percent from the line in the summer, that doesn’t exactly send his value skyrocketing.

But this summer isn’t the only hurdle Grier is going to have to overcome.

According to the new collective bargaining agreement, only 12 players can be on an NBA team’s active list, along with a maximum of three players on the inactive list.

So for Grier to suit up in a Heat uniform, he’s going to have to break into that top 12, which will be diffcult to do on a team that returned eight guards and forwards who saw significant playing time last season.

Add in the fact that the Heat signed another guard on Friday – rookie Robert Hite out of the University of Miami – and Grier’s chances of playing next season go down even more.

This should be especially concerning to Grier considering Hite was signed after the summer league, which could mean the Heat weren’t pleased with any of the guards they signed before it.

At this point, don’t expect to see Grier in a Heat uniform without the help of a major catastrophe that dramatically shakes up Miami’s roster.

– C.J. Spang welcomes comments at [email protected].