As alluded to in the 10-Game Progress Report article, Jerami Grant’s game needs further time under the microscope. He continues to be one of the top scorers on the Detroit Pistons, but he also has not shown considerable growth since his breakout year last season. He has not been bad, per se. The issue is that one of the reasons the team is struggling on offense is that Grant is featured prominently, and he has not done enough to make the opposition change its game plan on how to defend Grant based on their scouting report.
Let’s dive into some numbers to get some context. Grant leads the team in shot attempts (195), two-point shot attempts (127), free-throw attempts (67), and points (234). He is second on the team in three-point shot attempts (68), blocks (14), and turnovers (27).
It is important to start here because, yes, Grant can score. He needs to put up shots and be an offensive focal point if this team has any hope of cracking 100 points on any given night. But. BUT. Grant should be graded on a higher scale because he did prove he could be more than a role player last season, and it is time for him to take that next step.
This isn’t meant to dismiss Grant’s ability and role as the leading scorer on this Pistons team. Some may be thinking “isolation scorer” or “empty stats guy” in their head right now, but that is far from the truth. Let’s be clear: Grant is a good all-around player and THE PISTONS NEED GRANT TO SCORE. As much as we all love Cade Cunningham and think he will be a 20-point per game scorer in his NBA career, right now, Grant is the man most able to get to 20 points on a nightly basis for Detroit.
And even in his current state, he has a lot of shots in his arsenal. He is a good corner 3 shooter, he is a great straight-line driver that puts pressure on the rim, which is translating more and more into free-throw attempts, and he has a pretty good midrange shot he seems to be able to get off whenever he is coming off a corner pindown. But Grant can be even more. His coaches and this fanbase see that he has the ability to go from good to great.
Let’s take a look at some of the others areas of his game that don’t involve scoring to see how much of a total impact Grant is making.
Defensively, Grant has always shown he utilizes his length and athleticism to match up with anyone and everyone. Evidence of this can be seen in both Brooklyn games as well as the Bucks game where it was Grant who took on Durant and Giannis in man-to-man assignments. THIS more than anything shows he is a high-level, difference-making defensive player because he will not back down from any assignment AND has the size and skills to make an impact.
Make no mistake, NO ONE can stop either KD or Giannis. But, trying to find players with Grant’s size and athleticism with the willingness to match up against these guys WHILE ALSO being his team’s leading scorer shows the amount of dedication and focus he can bring to both sides of the court.
Off the ball, Grant has a few MINOR things he can work on to make more of an impact. Bryce Simon of Motor City Hoops does a fantastic job here breaking down the little details of what Grant can do to cause even more problems for offenses.
To reiterate what Coach Simon says here, Grant only has minor things to work on and does a fantastic job to this point of rotating or chasing guys down to block a lot of shots. Grant truly does not get enough credit for his continued focus on the defensive side of the ball while he has grown his game on the offense. Many times we see players take a dip in production on defense once they become a better offensive player, but Grant has not shown to be that kind of player, and he continues to make a difference as a Swiss-army knife on the defensive end.
This was a major point of emphasis from Coach Casey in the offseason. This also something that has been mentioned by many online as an area Grant needs to improve—especially since he plays the power forward position. So has this progression taken place on the court? Let’s go to the film and Coach Simon again first!
As Bryce says in the video, Grant needs to be more INVOLVED. Currently Grant is third on the team in rebounds with 56 which seems good … but he is barely ahead of Kelly Olynyk—who hasn’t played the last four games—and Josh Jackson—who’s played 140 fewer minutes than Grant. For further comparison, Trey Lyles has played 201 fewer minutes than Grant but only has three fewer rebounds at 53. The more alarming stat to show how little Grant does actually rebound, he is 11th on the team in total rebounding percentage with 7.3%.
Anyone who has watched this team thus far has seen just how much the lack of rebounding really hurts the team, and Grant is the singularly most significant reason why. As Bryce said in the video, Grant is not the only Piston who needs to pick it up on the glass, but he is the only one his coach specifically asked to become better on the glass in the offseason.
Grant also has the hops and physicality to be better rebounder. His forward counterpart in Saddiq Bey meanwhile did improve in this regard as he is second on the team in rebounds with 95—Bey is also tied for first with Isaiah Stewart in offensive boards with 32. Perhaps since Grant is asked to be a high-level defender and offensive focal point his rebounding takes a back seat, but it is odd Casey publicly made it known this is one area he wanted Grant to improve, and he has yet to show his coach that improvement so far.
Generating Offense for Himself and Others
As Bryce alludes to in the video, Grant’s shot selection is a polarizing topic for Pistons fans. Back to the film!
Coach Simon makes some great points here, specifically about being decisive and attacking the basket or pulling up and shooting. Bryce is right in that if Grant were just to be more in attack mode and do less backing off it would do wonders for his shot selection. Too often, Grant pulls back and then reverts to an iso where he tries his shimmies and hesies, and his teammates stand and watch. The more he can eliminate those situations, the better the offense will be for the Pistons.
The biggest demerit in Grant’s game this season is his lack of using his scoring to create easy looks for his teammates. While Coach Casey said he wants Grant to be a better rebounder in order to take that next step as a player, the biggest step he could take would be as a playmaker. It would make his offense even more dangerous, make his teammates better players, and it would allow him to be a clear primary offensive option in the NBA.
The hardest part about criticizing Grant’s lack of playmaking is that he is not a total non-factor as a passer. Let’s return to the film and see the good and bad from Grant as a playmaker.
It is incredibly hard to identify exactly Grant is missing in terms of creating for others, but let’s look at his assist and turnover numbers to get a better idea. Currently, he has 30 assists to 27 turnovers. This places him fourth on the Pistons for assists and second in turnovers. The numbers seem fine on the surface, but when you look at these numbers in context we can see Grant is a below average playmaker.
Those 30 assists are five behind Cade who has played 147 fewer minutes than Grant. Grant is also only three assists ahead of Josh Jackson who, again, has played 140 fewer minutes than Grant. Looking at Grant’s assist percentage also indicates he is not creating much offense for his teammates. Currently he is at an 12.9% which places him in 8th place on the team. When you zoom out and look at how this compares to the rest of the Association, Grant sits at tied at 98th place. And he sits below our old pal Mason Plumlee at 90th place and Malik Monk at 96th. To be blunt, these are backup assist numbers.
Again, this lack of creating for teammates should be the aspect of Grant’s game that he focuses most on improving. The offense has broken down too often in the season’s first month, and Grant is the one leading the charge many a night. His scoring is important and what has kept the team afloat at times, but for Grant to take that next step from good scorer to primary option, he NEEDS to find his open teammates when defenses collapse on him more often.
In the 10 game progress report, Grant was graded on a higher curve than his teammates—and it’s because he is already a proven good player that can turn into a great player. Coach Casey mentioned it when talking about challenging Grant to average more rebounds per game, he knows he can be a great player and expects him to rise to the challenge. Pistons fans love Jerami Grant and want him to get better. But film don’t lie here at DBB, and what we have seen so far from Grant indicates he is still working on his rebounding and playmaking, and that he has plenty of work left to do.
Rebounding is tough to pin on Grant because it seems to be more a team wide epidemic and no one should be singling out Grant for his below average performance on the glass so far. It definitely needs to improve, but this should be a team focus and everyone not named Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey need to start boxing guys out and throwing some bows down low to pull in more boards.
There have been positive indicators for his playmaking, however, such as the 5-assist night against Toronto this past weekend. Also, in the 13 games Grant has played he has logged more than 3 assists in six of them. Perhaps it is about being a consistent threat more than anything since Grant is one of the leaders of this team we all expect to exhibit consistency that comes with being consider one of the best, if not THE best player on an NBA roster.