Much was made when Jerami Grant signed a three-year, $60 million contract with the Detroit Pistons. In an offseason that was supposed to start a rebuild and begin a new chapter in Detroit, many questioned whether Troy Weaver was making the right decision in signing a 26-year-old for $20 million a year.
Not only were critics skeptical Grant made sense on a team slated to be so bad, but many questioned whether Grant was worth that amount of money on any team. Grant had been a great role player for many great squads such as the Oklahoma City Thunder and, recently, the Denver Nuggets. However, the majority of fans, critics and analysts alike questioned whether Grant could ever be more than a role player.
There were a few writers that believed in the signing though—specifically a 23-year-old mixed kid who writes for Detroit Bad Boys.
Of course, Grant believed in himself. Grant also believed in the destination — Detroit, America’s blackest city with a black head coach and black general manager. He liked the fit on and off the court and believed he was ready to be a featured player with the spotlight and the scrutiny squarely on him.
It didn’t start well ...
The preseason was ugly for Grant, but then again, the preseason doesn’t actually mean anything. That didn't stop the masses from calling Grant a bust of a signing and trashing Weaver before the season even started.
The premise was flawed from the start. Nothing about Jerami Grant suggested he deserved the bigger role he apparently wanted. I'm not drawing a new conclusion based on preseason, but it's a bit of evidence in favor of what I already thought.— Samuel H. Quinn (@SamQuinnCBS) December 12, 2020
The masses decided before the preseason and then felt vindicated by preseason play, that Grant was incapable of doing anything more than standing in a corner and playing defense.
He’s proven them more than wrong. Through nine regular-season games, it’s pretty clear — Jerami Grant deserves anapology ... from everyone.
Just trade him back to Denver. This was a mistake all around. https://t.co/bDV2C5O4uw— Samuel H. Quinn (@SamQuinnCBS) December 12, 2020
Grant is currently averaging a career-high 24.8 points per game while shooting 46.4% from the field, 36.4% from deep (7.3 attempts per game), with a true shooting percentage of 59%.
The numbers themselves are incredibly impressive, but to truly understand how well Grant is playing you must dig deeper.
As said above, the main concern about Grant was whether he could do more than stand in the corner. Could Grant work with the ball in his hands? Could he create his own offense or was he successful simply because he was surrounded by Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray? Grant has proven he can be successful as a primary ball handler, scorer, and shown he absolutely can at a pretty efficient level.
By utilizing his terrific athleticism and long wingspan, Grant has shown he doesn’t need Allen Iverson-like handles to create his offense.
Grant has shot 39% from deep the last two seasons, which has caused teams to close out rather fast and force him to put the ball on the ground. As you see in the clip above, Grant utilizes a nice pump-fake and only needs a single dribble to throw this dunk down on Daniel Theiss.
His ability to hit shots coming off the screen and on the move from beyond the arc shows why teams do not want to give him much space from deep.
What’s been even more impressive about Grant has been his ability to score out of the pick-and-roll as the ball handler. According to Synergy, Grant is scoring 0.90 points per possession as the ball-handler in the pick-and-roll.
This clip above is a perfect example of something people simply missed when evaluating Grant before the season. Coming off the screen from Mason Plumlee, Grant is able to get downhill going to his strong hand.
Notice(!) where Grant picks up his dribble to start gathering—it’s from above the free-throw line! The thing is, Grant is so incredibly long and athletic that he only needs one dribble to get to the rim. Once he gets there, his length, athleticism, and shockingly impressive balance allow him to convert tough finishes as you see above.
As many viewers have discovered with Grant, once he gets downhill going to his right you have two decisions:
- Get out the way and give up the bucket
- Smile for your Kodak moment because he’s absolutely going to throw it down on your head
He also drew the foul for an and-one opportunity in the first clip—which leads me to my next point.
Grant is trying to be the Pistons' go-to option on offense. In order for players to be successful in this type of role, you almost always need to have some type of success drawing fouls. The 26-year-old is not only slashing to the rim and finishing a remarkable 72.9% of his shots at the rim, but he’s also only drawing fouls as you'd want from a top option.
Grant has a free throw rate of 31.3%. To give you context of how good this is, the league average free throw rate sits at 25.6% right now. So, not only is Grant getting to the rim and finishing, shooting from outside with accuracy, he’s also currently drawing fouls at an above-average rate.
He’s even been really good in isolation situations! Thus far, he’s in the 78th percentile scoring 1.19 points per possession in isolation situations.
Mind you, this is all coming while Grant is operating with the highest usage rate of his career at 25.6%. His previous career-high? 18%.
Grant is being asked to do so much more than ever before, and he is absolutely thriving for the Pistons. Despite being asked to do so much on offense, the defense that made Grant such a great two-way player throughout his career remains.
Through eight games, Grant is averaging 1.2 blocks per game. Many of his blocks haven't just come at the rim, but rather contesting pull-ups and outside shots. These have led to opportunistic transition opportunities for the Pistons and Grant himself.
It’s truly hard to describe just how much Grant’s length surprises opponents. Many times you’ll see defenders pull-up for shots where they believe they have Grant off-balance, just for him to extend and tip the shot.
I think this play best represents what I mean. Khris Middleton is a noted sniper and one of the best shooters in the NBA. When you watch the clip unfold, it looks like Grant is giving Middleton a tad too much room beyond the arc. Obviously, Middleton agrees as he attempts to casually pull-up in front of Grant’s face.
Unfortunately for Middleton, Grant jumps and extends to contest the shot and comes away with another block. This leads to another easy bucket for Grant on the fast break, as he gently dunks the ball on the other end.
His length isn’t just felt when contesting shots, either. Many passes that would be open against other defenders simply aren't open against Grant due to his insane length.
Take this play as an example. Kelly Oubre actually does a nice job cutting toward the rim and appears to have an opening for the pass. Heck, Grant even looks to have been caught ball-watching. However, Grant is so long, he’s able to react even though he is playing catchup, and he is quick enough to knock the ball loose and create another transition opportunity for the Pistons.
Pistons fans haven’t seen these kinds of defensive plays since the long arms of the Palace Prince were in Auburn Hills. These plays create easy opportunities for the Pistons in transition and it has obviously paid off.
Grant is in the 93rd percentile in transition, scoring 1.50 points per possession.
Every Piston fan witnessed in Detroit’s latest win over the Phoenix Suns, Grant has delivered when it counts most: the clutch. The play he made on the Pistons' last offensive possession in the fourth quarter to tie the game shows growth and development as a number one option.
Something score-first players struggle with doing is making the right basketball play instead of looking for their own shot. In the play above, you’d expect someone new to being a go-to option to maybe force this shot in an attempt to be the hero.
As Grant draws the attention of DeAndre Ayton on the drive, instead of forcing a tough shot over the big man, he swings a wrap-around pass to Plumlee who finishes with an easy dunk. Plays like these get glossed over by the casual fan, but this was such an impressive play to see from Grant. This play, just as much as any other play he's made this year, gives one confidence that he is capable of becoming a number one.
En route to scoring 31 points for the Pistons, Grant once again showcased his supreme athleticism, eye-popping length, and underrated handle. I mean, I could sit here and try to breakdown this play more deeply, but man. All you need to do is watch the play and you’ll come away saying, “My God, that was filthy.”
If you still had any doubts about Grant being capable of putting an opposing team away, you won’t after watching him hit the dagger three to send the Phoenix Suns packing —capping off an 8-point overtime performance.
In every possible way, Grant has been earning that hefty contract in the offseason. Heck, if he keeps this up all year he’d be outperforming even the wildest expectations fans had for him. Take team success out of it, Grant’s individual play is 100 percent the quality of an All-Star right now.
His numbers might take a dip as defenses learn to key on him more and start scheming to take him out of the game. But if Grant has shown anything, he’s shown that he is up to any challenge.
He is absolutely showing off the potential he believed he had to be more than the player he was in Denver.
He is absolutely showing that even if the numbers take a slight dip, this is what he is capable of doing on a basketball court.
And he is absolutely damn sure owed an apology by everyone.