The franchise that selects Jerian Grant will likely be seeking immediate dividends from its draft pick. The Notre Dame guard is one of the most NBA-ready prospects in this year’s draft class. He is a high-level athlete with explosiveness and playmaking ability. His assist totals improved every year in college, rising to 6.6 assists per game during his senior year, which was the seventh best mark in the nation. The point guard took good care of the ball last season as well, averaging only 2.1 turnovers per game.
Scoring has never been much of an issue for Grant. He led his team in scoring during the 2012/13 and 2014/15 seasons. Grant played extremely well to begin the 2013/14 campaign, but after only 12 games, he was suspended for the remainder of the season because of academic issues. The suspension might have been a red flag for NBA teams, but I suspect the fact that he stayed in school and earned his degree will quiet those concerns.
The 22-year-old doesn’t appear to have the ceiling that some of the other prospects in his class possess, which is the downside of selecting Grant. He can also be a bit ball-dominant, which is something teams are shying away from. Still, valuing potential or scheme fit over production has left many coaches and front office executives unemployed. Grant has produced during his time in South Bend and he has shown he has skills that will translate immediately to the NBA.
He should be able to join a team and carve out a role similar to Dennis Schröder’s in Atlanta. Schroder came into the league known as a playmaker, but he needed the ball to do so. The German native has done a good job of fitting in and leading the Hawks’ second team, although he does revert to his old style of play at times, as his 27.0 usage rate this past season indicates. Schröder was a solid first-round pick, one of the many moves that GM Danny Ferry made that allowed Atlanta to win 60 games this season. Drafting Grant can be, at worst, the kind of selection that allows a team to fill out its rotation with another quality NBA player. He has the potential to be much more than that, but the team that drafts him shouldn’t expect too much too soon.
Chad Ford of ESPN.com ranks Grant as the 17th best prospect, while Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress ranks him as the 21st. Grant and his agent, Raymond Brothers of IAM Sports and Entertainment, believe he could be drafted higher than that, as Grant recently told Zach Links of Hoops Rumors.
“My agent and I have been hearing anywhere from No. 8 to No. 20, anywhere around that range. They don’t see me going past No. 22 and they say the ceiling is around No. 8 or 9. It’s a wide range right now,” Grant said.
The Pistons own the eighth pick in the draft and the team is expected to re-sign Reggie Jackson to be its starting point guard. Detroit also employs Brandon Jennings, but he was rumored to be available early in the season, before he tore his Achilles and before the Pistons traded for Jackson. Grant will work out for the Hornets, who own the ninth pick in the draft. Charlotte will have a void on its bench unit if Mo Williams leaves in free agency, but if Lance Stephenson remains on the team, it might make sense to give him a sixth-man role as the de facto second team point guard. That’s a dicey proposition given Stephenson’s production last season, but he is owed $9MM next year and it might be the best way for the team to get value out of that contract. Using Stephenson in this role and drafting Grant with the ninth overall pick would allow Charlotte to ease the 22-year-old into the NBA, while providing insurance of sorts in case of a Stephenson debacle.
The Heat own the No. 10 selection and if they believe Dwyane Wade wasn’t bluffing when he reportedly indicated that he is willing to leave Miami, they may be interested in drafting his replacement. You can see the similarities between point guard’s play at Notre Dame and Wade’s at Marquette, although Grant wasn’t nearly the force on the defensive end that Wade was. Assuming the team re-signs Goran Dragic, which seems likely, Grant could come off the bench next season and join Dragic in the starting lineup the following year if Wade departs. If Wade re-signs with Miami, which I believe is a more likely outcome, Grant could still see a heavy role as he plays out his rookie contract. Wade has only played in 71.34% of Miami’s regular season games since the 2011/12 season and only roughly 33.17 minutes during those games. The 33-year-old is reportedly looking for a three-year, $45MM deal after his current one expires. If the Heat have Grant, who would make slightly more than $11.6MM over the four years if selected with the 10th pick, on the roster, they could use him as their spot starter when Wade misses games and it could help the team cope with paying a hefty salary to an aging veteran. The team could just as easily go in a different direction with its draft choice given all the resources it already used on its backcourt.
Grant previously worked out for the Pacers, who own the No. 11 pick. If Roy Hibbert and David West both opt in, Indiana won’t have many resources available to add help to its roster, as Chuck Myron of Hoops Rumors explains in the team’s Offseason Outlook. Grabbing a player who could help right away with its first-round selection may be something the team looks into, although that is merely my speculation.
Eddie Scarito of Hoops Rumors has Grant going to the Mavs with the No. 21 selection in his latest Mock Draft. Dallas, as well as Chicago at No. 22, would be ecstatic to get a contributor at that juncture of the draft. Grant also worked out for the Suns and the Wizards, who own the No. 13 and No. 19 picks, respectively. The Sixers interviewed Grant about playing in Philadelphia alongside his younger brother, Jerami, whom the team drafted in the second round last year. The Notre Dame alum seemed delighted about the possibility of playing in the City of Brotherly Love, as he told Links.
“It’d be great,” Grant said of playing with his brother. “We got to play together a bit when we were younger. Both of our games have developed so much, so I think that we can be a dynamic duo together.”
The Sixers do not possess a first-round pick in the range where Grant is expected to go off the board. The team does have five second-round picks this year as well as an abundance of additional future selections, so a move into the middle of the first round could be in play.
NBA scouts have nearly five seasons worth of games to evaluate Grant, and because of the large sample size, it’s clear he is one of the safest picks in this year’s draft. Whichever franchise selects him will be getting a playmaker who can contribute immediately and help improve the team.