Let’s be honest about something, fellow Syracuse fans. Last season we pretty much all thought that Jerami Grant was making a mistake by leaving school early to enter the NBA Draft. We all loved Jerami. I loved him, you loved him, and basically anyone who can appreciate a good, powerful dunk loved him. But the simple fact of the matter was that he just didn’t seem particularly ready to compete at the next level, because he lacked the skill set to play small forward, and the size and strength to play in the post. Well, lately all Jerami has been doing is proving us all wrong.
Now, that’s not to say that Jerami Grant is going to win any NBA Rookie of the Year awards or anything, but I don’t think any one of us would have expected him to be a more effective pro player at this point in his career than his fellow Syracuse draftee in 2014, Tyler Ennis, who has spent most of the season in the NBA D-League. Yet here we are, with Grant slowly becoming a more effective and impactful player as the Sixers continue to struggle and he gets more and more playing time from Philadelphia coach Brett Brown.
On Monday night, Grant threw down the posterizing dunk above to land himself the second spot on the SportsCenter Top 10, and deservedly so. But his game has become about more than just dunking and generally being an explosive athlete. Dare I say, Jerami Grant is starting to become a complete player, and he didn’t even need that extra year of college that all of us – including Jim Boeheim – thought he would. In fact, at the rate his production has been increasing, it’s looking more and more likely that he’s going to be one of the steals of the 2014 NBA Draft, having slipped all the way down to the second round, and the 39th overall pick.
The first 13 games of Grant’s NBA career came exclusively on the pine, as he logged a baker’s dozen of DNP – Coach’s Decision lines in the box score. His first appearance came against Dallas on November 29, when he logged three minutes, didn’t score, and finished with a rebound and a block. His minutes slowly started to increase, and by the middle of December, he was averaging double-digits in terms of minutes per game, probably boosted by the fact that he scored 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting in a narrow loss to Atlanta on December 10.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. Jerami isn’t exactly putting up monumental numbers or anything. In fact he’s only hit double digits in the scoring column six times this year, but it’s more the way he’s been scoring, and the way that he’s impacted games in other facets that have him looking more and more likely to be a long term NBA player, instead of an athletic tweener without a position who finds himself playing in Europe in a few years.
You might want to sit down for this next statistic, Syracuse fans. It’s a doozy, and you’ll never believe it.
Jerami Grant is learning how to shoot the basketball a little bit. He’s hit 12 of his last 24 three point attempts, dating back to a 2-for-2 performance against Indiana on January 10. I know. I know. Can you believe it? I know I sure as hell couldn’t when I first saw that figure, but it’s true.
The guy who basically never attempted a shot outside of 10 feet in his entire time at SU is morphing into an adequate jump shooter at an alarming rate. He’s also turning into one heck of a shot blocker, having recently swatted eight shots against the Knicks. On Monday night against the Pelicans, he added four more blocks to go along with his 10 points and that highlight reel dunk.
I’m not going to lie, I would love to see Jerami Grant taking the court for the Orange this year. Watching that North Carolina loss on Monday, I can’t help but wonder how much of a difference Grant would have made against the big front line of the Tar Heels. But at the end of the day, Jerami Grant is starting to put together a very respectable rookie season in the NBA, averaging 5.1 points and 2.7 rebounds (his scoring average has jumped to 7.8 points in his last 10 games).
We always knew that Jerami Grant was one hell of an athlete. Now, it looks like he’s showing signs of turning into a pretty good basketball player, too.