Syracuse sophomore forward Jerami Grant, the son of former NBA forward Harvey Grant, announced his intention to enter the 2014 NBA Draft. Grant said, “After extensive discussions with my family and coaches, I have decided to pursue my dream of playing professional basketball and enter the 2014 NBA Draft. I am so thankful to coach [Jim] Boeheim and the rest of the Orange coaching staff for guiding me throughout my college career, and am grateful to my teammates for two incredible seasons. I am excited to start my journey in the NBA, but I also look forward to finishing my college degree. I cannot thank my coaches, teammates and the entire Orange community enough for all of their support.”
Draft experts see Grant as a mid-to-late first round pick. In current mock drafts, DraftExpress has him going 19th, CBSSports.com puts him 16th, NBA Draft.net ranks him 20th, and Bleacher Report places him 19th, and Chad Ford of ESPN.com ranks Grant 21st on his Big Board.
Grant started 20 of 32 games for the Orange during his second season. He averaged 12.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, and 0.8 SPG in 31.4 minutes per game. His slash line was .496/.000/.674. His career numbers were 7.5 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 0.9 APG in 21.9 minutes per contest. His career slash line was .486/.300/.641.
At this stage of his development Grant is unpolished as a player but has a high upside athletically. One of the first issues affecting his draft stock is that he doesn’t have a clearly defined NBA position, and can be categorized as a tweener. His size (6’8″) and defensive skills suggest his best fit is as a small forward, but his ball-handling and shooting touch limit him offensively. Without a solid post game and possessing a slender frame, it is unknown if he can hold up as an undersized everyday power forward. Grant does have a 7’2″ wingspan, which could help compensate for his size defensively.
“I like his size and length and athletic ability,” a player personnel director for a team in the NBA’s Western Conference said to Mike Waters of The Post-Standard. “He needs to show that he can handle the ball on the perimeter and shoot the ball on the perimeter.” Another NBA executive said that Grant should improve his overall game with another year at Syracuse. “I personally think he should stay in school,” an assistant GM for a Western Conference team said to Waters. “He’s got a lot of upside but he’s got a lot of skill development to do. I think he could really improve his draft status by staying in school.”
Offensively, Grant’s value right now is limited to scoring around the rim and in transition. According to DraftExpress, he did most of his damage inside, where his leaping ability and touch helped him be a consistent finisher. Grant also runs the floor well, moves without the ball, and plays off his teammates. He crashes the glass aggressively, and showed excellent ability to attack the rim. Grant shot 57% at the rim in the half court and 68% in transition according to Synergy Sports Technology, which ranked him third among small forward prospects in the top 100.
Outside shooting is the biggest hole in Grant’s game at this stage in his development. He is extremely inconsistent from mid-range to the three-point line. He does not have a soft touch or a great mechanical release on his jump shot. Grant also hasn’t developed a reliable post arsenal or the advance ball-handling ability to help him create his own shot regularly one-on-one against quality defenders.
As a play-maker Grant is a team oriented player who is a willing passer and has shown flashes of being good at finding teammates in good positions to score. He is merely an average ball-handler, though. In the open court Grant can rebound the ball and push it up-court, but he has a lose handle that can be susceptible to turnovers. This season he averaged 1.2 turnovers per game.
Defensively, Grant is very active and avoids overplaying jumpers when closing out on his man. While not statistically a great shot blocker, he does not chase after blocks by leaving his position as many young defenders tend to. Grant has shown the ability to defend multiple positions, and in addition to his skills as a transition scorer, his immediate impact in the league will be felt on the defensive end. His game in this area has been compared to Shawn Marion‘s.
For a young player with limitations, one positive that can be said is that Grant is aware of them, and he doesn’t try and do things outside his skill set. Chad Ford noted this and compared Grant to Detroit’s Josh Smith, saying, “What if [
had just been content doing the things he does well instead of launching ill-advised long 2s and 3s all game? Hawks fans probably stay up late at night wondering that. Well, Grant might be your answer. Like Smith, he’s a freak athlete who has versatile skills. Unlike Smith, he knows he’s not a great 3-point shooter and has taken just five all season.”
Grant is an intriguing prospect from an athletic standpoint. He has more question marks than teams would generally like in a first round selection, but he does have a high upside. Besides Marion, his game has been compared to those of Darius Miles and Anthony Randolph. I don’t see him as a starter, but if he can make the jump from Syracuse’s 2-3 zone to the more man-to-man oriented NBA, he could be valuable off the bench as a defender and a high-energy transition scorer. I definitely see a team selecting him in the first round, but I wouldn’t use a top 20 pick on a tweener with limited offensive skills. I see him going somewhere in the mid-20s.