As the Detroit Pistons pressed the “reset” button and began to build for tomorrow rather than today, one would be reasonable to expect a season of dread and despair.
If losses bug you, then yeah, it’s been pretty dreadful.
But watching Jerami Grant blossom into an All-Star caliber wing has been the best part of this young season. The maligned free agent signing has been on a revenge tour, and the Pistons are competitive every night thanks to his consistent (and shocking) ability to put the team on his back and carry the load offensively.
Here’s the weird part: for a guy averaging just south of 25 points per game — good for 13th in the NBA — he gets a lot of open shots.
According to NBA.com, nearly 20% of Grant’s attempts have come with a defender six or more feet away. He’s making 48% of them, which feels low until you consider that 17.2% of those “wide open” shots have come from 3-point range.
Perfect example, as Grant breaks out of trouble only to meet up with Giannis Antetokounmpo... who isn’t in the same area code:
And here’s a surprisingly apathetic effort from a guy known for defense in Jae Crowder:
Lest we forget the deciding moment of that game, where the Phoenix Suns — the same team that some think can make a run in the Western Conference — forgot to guard the Pistons best player in favor of guarding DELON WRIGHT:
Folks (myself included) worried about Grant dribbling the air out of the ball, in turn making things harder for himself, as he tried to position himself as the go-to guy. That just hasn’t been the case. Nearly 41.2% of his attempts have come with zero dribbles, and Grant is shooting 43% on those quick-score possessions — 47.8% from 2, 41% from 3.
I said this in his player profile before the season:
There’s something to the idea of chasing a “bigger role” that doesn’t include dribbling haphazardly and missing awkward shots. Look at Klay Thompson. He doesn’t pound the rock all game, he gets open and makes shots. He’s incredible at what he does because he plays to his strengths.
Now, I’m in no way comparing Grant and Klay. I’m just saying Grant can still have a bigger role with more shots for the Pistons without dribbling and playing to his weaknesses.
Grant has played to his strengths, but shown some new ones as well.
There’s a decent chance we see some overall regression here, of course. He won’t make 56.6 % of his tightly-guarded shots, as he is now. Maybe that leads to him looking for others and finding better secondary opportunities for teammates.
The interesting part is you would expect teams, once they’ve faced Grant, to do a better job the second time they faced him — hasn’t happened.
After scoring 24 points (9/24 shooting) with no assists in a win over Boston on New Year’s Day, he rallied with a better game the next time they met with 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting with a pair of assists, albeit in a loss.
Fast forward a few days to a back-to-back against the Bucks. Grant scored 24 in a loss, and followed it the next day with a more efficient effort, dropping a career-best 31 point, albeit in another loss.
It’s only two instances, but it shows that Grant’s improvement has staying power and isn’t happening with smoke and mirrors.