Drafted by: Philadelphia 76ers, No. 39 overall
Height/Weight: 6'8", 214 lbs
Age: 20 years old
Projected NBA Position: Small Forward
Pro Comparison: Thaddeus Young
Twitter Handle: @JeramiGrant
Jerami Grant had trouble earning playing time for Jim Boeheim during his freshman year at Syracuse, but he took advantage of his opportunity during the follow-up campaign. Throughout the 2013-14 season, Grant excelled on both ends of the court, aiding his draft stock to the point that he's almost a surefire first-round pick.
And if some team gets even more excited than most about his ridiculous upside, there's a slight chance he could go as high as the teens.
Not only did he receive far more playing time as a sophomore, but he improved rather dramatically. While his per-minute points, rebounds, assists, field-goal percentage and free-throw percentage all rose, he recorded fewer turnovers per 40 minutes at the same time, according to Sports-Reference.com.
That improvement is already catching the attention of NBA scouts, and so too is his immense potential. This 20-year-old forward hasn't come close to reaching his ceiling, after all.
|Statistics at Syracuse|
The eye test does wonders for Grant.
With the exception of elite strength, he's brimming over with high-quality tools. And even that lack of strength isn't a huge concern, as his frame is wide enough to handle extra weight as he grows into his body and takes advantage of NBA weight rooms and athletic trainers.
Grant is 6'8", but he plays even bigger than that, primarily for two reasons.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
First is the length of his arms.
At the NBA Draft Combine, per NBA.com's measurement databases, he had a 7'2.75" wingspan, which left him trailing only Isaiah Austin, Noah Vonleh, Jordan Bachynski, Adreian Payne and Alex Kirk and tied with Kyle Anderson. The last name on that list is the only one who won't be spending time at both power forward and center.
But length is even more advantageous when paired with athleticism, which Grant has in spades.
He runs the court like a gazelle, elevates quickly and high off the ground, moves laterally like a guard and possesses every other type of athleticism you could possibly dream of. His vertical might not be as impressive as Andrew Wiggins' or Zach LaVine's, but that's the class he's in as an athlete.
When Grant gets around the rim, he's probably going to finish the play, as DraftExpress.com's Matt Kamalsky makes clear while providing some key stats:
Running the floor well, moving without the ball, playing off his teammates, crashing the glass aggressively, and showing the ability to attack the rim with his quick first step from the midrange attacking close outs or as the roll man in the two man game, Grant shot 57% at the rim in the half court and 68% in transition according to Synergy Sports Technology.
The beauty of Grant's finishing ability is that he can put the ball in the hoop from virtually any situation, so long as he ends up right around the basket before the rock leaves his hands.
He's an explosive transition athlete who often acts like a homing missile with its sights set on the rim, and he has a surprisingly soft touch around the basket. Not only does he slam home more than his fair share of attempts in traffic, but he also has a knack for scoop shots and body control that leads him toward tough finishes in the face of contests.
Between his aggressive nature, tendency to draw contact and get to the charity stripe and strength as a dunker, he should be a quality slashing threat at the next level, both in half-court sets and when running the floor in transition.
The length and lateral quickness aid Grant quite significantly in this area, as he's able to insert himself in passing lanes and contest plenty of shots. If he does get beaten to a spot, his lanky arms can still allow him to make a positive impact from behind.
During his collegiate career, the Syracuse standout didn't rack up tons of blocked shots or steals, but he was still able to serve as a high-quality defender in the vaunted zone defense. As a result, there will be significant adjustments when transitioning to the man-to-man style in the NBA, but he has the tools and mentality to be just fine.
After all, he's incredibly active and seems to pride himself on allowing as few shots as possible in his area of the court.
He'll need to get smarter, increasing his awareness as he does more than patrol the back line of a 2-3 zone, but he's fully capable of doing exactly that early on in his defensive career. Physically, and in terms of style, comparisons to Kawhi Leonard—albeit a raw version—are not inappropriate here.
Not only does Grant have good rebounding numbers on his resume, but he appears capable of translating them to the NBA. After all, rebounding is the stat that typically has the greatest positive correlation between the two levels.
What's particularly impressive is his work on the offensive glass.
According to Sports-Reference.com, he recorded an 9.1 offensive rebounding percentage as a sophomore, which was 0.1 percent higher than the mark he posted as a first-year player. Those are both excellent for a lanky small forward, and it's easy to see how such success was achieved.
Defenders must put a body on him after a shot goes up, because he's quite good at anticipating bounces off the rim and squirming around or through defenders to gain positioning on the glass. And some of those aren't just offensive rebounds; they're thunderous putback dunks, like the one you can see up above.
There are three primary concerns keeping Grant from becoming a lottery pick in this stacked class.
First is his strength, as he's easily bullied by bigger forwards and isn't yet capable of suiting up at the 4 in smaller lineups. Fortunately, it's only a minor weakness, as his frame indicates that he can put on a good bit of muscle weight without sacrificing the athleticism that makes him so special.
More concerning is his offensive game, as he's completely reliant on his teammates. Without getting a pass from a teammate or soaring in for a putback dunk, he has difficulty creating his own offense. He just goes to the right every time, which is predictable and dangerous, seeing as his handles are well below average.
But the biggest weakness is his shooting.
Grant went only 0-of-5 from downtown as a sophomore and, per Kamalsky, hit just 29 percent of the jumpers he attempted. His release is awkward and ineffective, indicating that it needs to be completely retooled as soon as he enters the NBA.
He's about as nonthreatening as it gets on the perimeter, which allows defenders to sag off him and cut down on the driving lanes.
Grant shouldn't earn many minutes at the start of his NBA career, no matter how high he's drafted.
While he's a transition and slashing threat on offense, he has too much work to do before he's anything but an overall liability to his new team. Not only does the jumper need to be broken down and built from scratch, but adjusting from Syracuse's style of defense to the type played in the Association will take time as well.
It would be in his best interest to spend a season in the D-League, and then he can use his de facto rookie season to show off the improvements.
Remember, Grant is only 20 years old, and he won't legally be able to consume alcoholic beverages until next March. There's plenty of time for improvement, and we've already seen him take massive strides between collegiate seasons.
Chances are that he will develop into a quality starter at the 3, so long as he has the mentality necessary to make major changes to his game. The physical tools are all there, and it's quite possible he turns into a solid two-way player, one who can affect a game with his above-average offense and elite defensive tools.
But it requires work.
Success isn't a guarantee for Grant, even if long-term success is certainly possible.