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Jerami Grant looked gassed last week, and it was clear if you examine his defense

Grant’s efficiency took a tumble, but it’s not because teams suddenly figured out how to defend his increasingly dynamic game

NBA: Houston Rockets at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Jerami Grant has been magnificent so far this year. He doubled his scoring average, becoming one of the best offensive players of the young season. As the games comes by, he developed his arsenal from a scorer playing off set team plays intoan iso monster creating opportunities for himself, and into playmaker facilitating scoring of the rest of his team. All the time he was his usual self, that is excellent defender… well almost all the time.

But you can only get to the stars through hardships. Those hit at the end of last week. In two games Jerami was 7-of-34 from the field and 5-of-15 from the long line. His point average in those games dipped by almost 10 (16 PPG) in comparison to his season average prior to them (25.4 PPG). He was uncharacteristically missing shots inside (only 1-of-6 in restricted area and 1-of-7 in the rest of paint compared to his 65.9 and 38.2 FG% there respectively before) and outside.

But it wasn’t just the scoring. He had only 6 assists while having 17 in three previous matches. Instead, he committed 5 turnovers despite committing only 21 in 14 previous games. He was uncharacteristically losing the ball in dribble and while passing.

He was denied at the rim like never before (5 BLKA against 18 in 14 previous games).

It wasn’t good – science left no doubt about that. Prima facie, it looked like other teams just figured him out. Some Pistons fans might started to worry that the only unequivocal bright spot in this lost season is fading quickly.

But if you look deeper, it’s simply not true. The teams couldn’t keep up with Jerami, leaving him lots of space at the beginning of the season. The trend continued until the “two games of doom and gloom” as only 8% of his shots were with closest defender being 0-2 feet away and 53.4% of them were open (closest defender 4-6 feet away) or wide open (closest defender 6 or more feet away). But the first number changed only a little in those two games, to 12.5%, nowhere near to justify a conclusion that the former Orange was figured out. All the more, since the second one was even more favorable to him (54.2%).

So if Grant’s mini-slump wasn’t because defenders had figured him out, then what happened? There’s only one other explanation left. If it wasn’t manmade then it was for natural reasons. Jerami was simply gassed.

This hypothesis is confirmed by the fact that he wasn’t himself not only on offense, but also on defense. The stats, even those advanced, won’t tell you that – he had more or less similar traditional numbers (2.2 stocks per contest before compared to 2.5 stocks in the games) and better advanced ones (110.5 DEFRTG before compared to 101.7 DEFRTG in the “games”). But if you read between them… uuggrrrhhhh, it’s looks ugly. He defended on ball poorly and bitted on pump fakes too easily.

Jerami’s bad on-ball D

Jerami’s pump faked

He was totally lost near protected basket and hopeless in P&R defense on perimeter... and then inside too (ok, maybe not all was so ugly, since Isaiah Steward took some of this opportunity to showcase himself as a pretty darn good defender in the making).

Jerami’s bad awareness

Jerami’s bad P&R D

The load that Jerami is carrying the whole year on both ends of the floor finally took its toll. It’s something to be expected that it might result in some slumps from time to time. Move on, nothing to be worry about.

The whole thing teaches us two things, however.

First, it adds further brick to Grant’s possible All-Star status (well, it will if the slump really is over, as Pistons last game suggests – I’ll come back to this in a minute). It is, for it shows that he’s becoming a player that could be beaten by no-one but himself.

Second, Jerami’s ascendance to the All-Star status looks to be in really good hands. I was afraid that the only way out for him would be to rest. But Dwayne Casey find a better way. He allowed him to play through it, but eased his load much and let him to take his time. In all games before the last one, Grant took his first own shot no later than 4 minutes into the first quarter, most coming no later than 2 minutes. In the game against Sixers, his first shot came at 10:18 mark in the first frame, but it was a put back, so it wasn’t exactly his own shot. That shot come more than 6 and half minutes into the quarter, when Wayne Ellington and Delon Wright got so much under opponents skin that it left so many holes for others to score. Jerami’s shot was a wiiiiide open triple – as easy score as it gets nowadays.

In this circumstances he reached his season average on only 13 shots (more than 5 below his season average). He added 5 dimes and had, count them, 0 turnovers and 0 blocked field goal attempts.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Where are you going!? I’m not done yet!

So ok, Grant had some lows last week, but even in those games he was able to show something good.

In the first clip of the film we can see him expanding his dribble by adding new tricks (of course after some sloppy handle first). In the second, that he looks more and more smoother in his drives. They look now as if he was saying by them: ‘Why you’re looking so stunned? I’ve been doing this my whole life’. In the third, a handsome and timely pull-up jumper. If Jerami will stay with those instead of the forced ones from a couple weeks ago, his midrange game will thrive adding yet another ingredient to the explosive offensive mixture he’s becoming and make him all the more unstoppable by no-one but himself. Additionally, he also still managed to register some pretty defensive possessions.

Ah, another week of the season and another chapter to the same old story: The Detroit Pistons are losing but there is so much in it to cheer about.