RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Jerami GrantPosted by Bennet Hayes on June 3rd, 2014
The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 26, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of 20 collegians likely to hear their names called by Adam Silver at some point in the draft’s first round. We’ll start with prospects currently slated for the back half of the opening round, but as June progresses we will slowly work our way up and through the presumptive lottery selections. RTC National Columnist Bennet Hayes is tackling this series; you can find him on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.
Player Name: Jerami Grant
Height/Weight: 6’8”/215 lbs.
NBA Position: Small Forward
Projected Draft Range: Mid-First Round
Overview: I suppose there are some Syracuse fans capable of recalling the good times of the first three months of last season (in which the Orange ran out to a 21-0 start), but the lingering bitterness of a 3-6 close to the year is now difficult to avoid. Late February and March went as poorly as those months possibly could have for Jim Boeheim’s team, but the stench of that disastrous stretch appears to not have infiltrated the draft stock of Syracuse’s underclassmen, turned NBA hopefuls, Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant. We’ll get to Ennis a little later on, but Grant’s breakout sophomore season appears to have planted him solidly in the middle of the draft’s first round. The stupendous athletic ability that he displayed during infrequent spells on the floor in his freshman season was put to much better use last year, as Grant made the most of a significant increase in minutes (more than double) to boost his per game averages in points (12.1 PPG from 3.9) and rebounds (6.8 RPG from 3.0) in 2013-14. His offensive efficiency rating also leaped from 103.2 to 115.6 (280th-best in the country), as Grant avoided the perimeter and focused on what he does best: offensive rebounding and attacking the rim from 12 feet and in. Grant made significant strides in many fundamental areas of the game last season, but even more exaggerated development will be needed if the Syracuse product is to become a quality NBA player. He lacks any sort of perimeter jump shot (although he did improve his free throw shooting, making 67% of his attempts at the line as a sophomore), struggles to put the ball on the deck and create his own shot, and hasn’t been asked to play much man-to-man defense. All are areas of concern, but as long as highlight reels exist, reminders of Grant’s tantalizing upside are never far from reach.
Will Translate to the NBA: With Grant, this one is easy: His athleticism has been NBA-ready from the moment he stepped on campus at Syracuse. He didn’t do any athletic testing in Chicago, but watch a few minutes of Syracuse game tape and you can understand why this long, bouncy forward is one of the two or three best athletes in this draft. Despite not running drills at the combine, Grant was measured and checked in with a freakishly long 7’3” wingspan — good for sixth-best among the 60 prospects in attendance. The Syracuse zone showcased some of Grant’s disruptive defensive abilities, but with or without that zone, Grant and his raptor-like wingspan should prove plenty bothersome to NBA opponents.
Needs Work: After an underwhelming freshman season, Grant found ways to channel his athleticism into productive, winning basketball plays throughout his second year at Syracuse, but his game still needs a lot more polish. On the offensive end, his jump shot is still a work in progress (0-of-5 3FG last year) and he struggles to score if asked to put down more than one or two dribbles. Those flaws would be mitigated significantly if Grant can play the four in the NBA (he has the length to do so), but he would have to add weight to an already thin frame if he hopes to make that transition. Post defense (and man-to-man in general) might also be an issue at the current time, as the Syracuse zone shields its forwards from the rugged interior defense that the NBA demands.
Best Case Scenario: Grant is the type of athletic prospect who will generate endless claims of “high upside” from talking heads, and to an extent, they are right. Fundamentals like jump shooting and ball-handling are things that can be developed, but the ability to jump out of the gym is something you either have or you don’t, and Grant certainly has it. Consequently, Grant’s best “best case scenario” is pretty damn good, but let’s stay within some degree of reason here. If he can add a few more pounds, develop a dependable mid-range jump shot, and learn how to attack the rim after a catch on the perimeter – a lot to ask, but all are reasonable propositions – the former Syracuse forward probably does have All-Star potential. And if we want to be even more reasonable, whichever team drafts Grant can hope that he adds that weight and finds a way to rev up his motor enough to become a high volume rebounder in the Kenneth Faried mold, with any offensive development coming as a pure bonus.
Best NBA Fit: Grant’s energy and athleticism could be a welcomed addition to the Boston Celtics roster, which owns the #17 selection and has a frontcourt currently comprised of plodders like Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk; Grant could be a shot in the arm for Brad Stevens’ young bunch. The Toronto Raptors (owners of the #20 pick) could also be an attractive destination for Grant. The young Raps are coming off an exciting season, and with a relatively stable setup in the backcourt, should be looking to upgrade their frontcourt this offseason. The Atlanta Hawks at #15 could also be in play for Grant, as they begin planning for a future without Paul Millsap, who will be a free agent after the 2014-15 season.
Scout’s Take (from NBADraft.net): “A very athletic forward prospect with top notch physical tools… Projects to be a wing, and has good size for the position at 6’8, and possesses outstanding length to match (7’2 3/4 wingspan) and a massive 8’11” standing reach… His size and athleticism could allow him to be a Swiss army knife on the defensive end of the floor, as his length and lateral quickness are both tantalizing for a forward… No good from anywhere outside of 12 feet as a shooter, and he made zero three-pointers as a soph… Has an awkward release that needs to be overhauled completely.”
NBA Comparison: Darrell Arthur/Ed Davis
In 140 Characters Or Less, The Case For Grant: