Jerami Grant Proving He was Worth the Gamble

Five years ago, Jerami Grant was playing rotation minutes alongside Robert Covington and Hollis Thompson on the 10-72 Philadelphia 76ers – considered by many as one of the worst professional basketball teams of all-time. Grant finshed with the 12th highest usage on the team and took the 16th most shots per 100 possessions.

This time last year, I wrote an article about Jerami Grant thriving in a bench role with the Nuggets, and now he’s in the Top-20 in scoring in the league. Fast forward to 2021 and, Grant is leading a frisky Detroit Pistons team in field goal attempts by a wide margin. In the five games the Pistons have played in January, Grant is averaging 26.4 PPG/6.8 RPG with 46/36/87 splits on 58.1% True Shooting.

In trying to grasp and comprehend Jerami Grant’s ascension from Process auxiliary player, to solid role player, to $60-million man, I have to throw a couple stats your way that encapsulate his tremendous on-court development.

The Numbers

2: The number of times Jerami Grant led the Syracuse Orange in scoring in 72 career games. In his first eight games with the Detroit Pistons, Grant has led them in scoring six times, eight when including the two games he tied with another player.

Starting with his days at DeMatha High School, he played alongside Quinn Cook, Victor Oladipo, and his brother Jerian. Jerami was molded into a role player very early on in his development due to playing with some tremendous on-ball talents. This is something that sticks out even more when we look at his NBA track later on. Without early on-ball/creation reps in your development, it’s uncommon to explode as a creator at higher levels.

7.6: Grant’s usage has risen by nearly 8% from last year in Denver, and is nearly 5% higher than his highest usage at Syracuse (his sophomore year). To put that into perspective for myself, I ran some of Jerami’s number’s this year through Stathead to see if there had ever been a statistical jump quite like his.

To filter through the weeds, I went back and searched for every forward since the 90-91 season who has averaged 20 PPG or more, while shooting league average true shooting or higher (~56%), and with 25% usage or higher.

Usually, when we see players jump in usage, we see massive efficiency drops. While Grant’s efficiency from last year has certainly fallen, he’s scoring ~25 PPG on above league average true shooting, which is impressive. Couple this with his turnover percentage actually dropping (down 2%), and we’re talking about a very special growth from a player this far into his career.

22 players in the past 30 years that have paced that criteria:

  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Kawhi Leonard
  • Karl Malone
  • Paul George
  • Jayson Tatum
  • Danny Granger
  • Dirk Nowitzki
  • Blake Griffin
  • Charles Barkley
  • Kevin Love
  • Brandon Ingram
  • Shareef Abdur-Rahim
  • Elton Brand
  • Correy Maggette
  • Cedric Ceballos
  • Orlando Woolridge
  • Glen Rice
  • Richard Jefferson
  • Metta World Peace (Then Ron Artest. Small Sample Size, Malice at the Palace year)
  • Jabari Parker
  • Christian Wood

What stands out about this list? For one, Jabari Parker.

via GIPHY

Most notably, Jerami Grant is the only player on this list that did not have even a single 20% usage or higher season before this jump. Most who made the list that had more drastic jumps in usage were drafted to contending organizations at the time: Kawhi and Richard Jefferson were both on teams that made the NBA Finals prior to their creation burden increasing.

My point in showing this is to illustrate just how impressive his start to the year has been. This is only a nine game sample size from Grant, but this doesn’t feel like some flash in the pan hot streak. I don’t expect this scoring to continue at this rate, but I also didn’t think Grant had the ability to do what he’s doing now.

Gambling on Grant

Jerami Grant agreeing to a 3-year $60 million deal with the Detroit Pistons in free agency was easily one of the more unexpected moves of the off-season. Many levied criticism towards the Detroit Pistons and new GM Troy Weaver, citing the Grant signing as well as other moves made.

One of my main takeaways from Jerami Grant and Troy Weaver’s off-season: Team building is not analogous from franchise to franchise. There is no set way to go about creating an organization, no matter how many thinkpieces we write on how to build a contender. While general principles can be extrapolated throughout the league, every scenario is dependent on the individuals that make up the whole.

Weaver and Grant had a prior relationship from when the two overlapped in Oklahoma City. James Edwards III wrote a fantastic article on that, which you should definitely read once you’re finished with this (easily one of the best articles I’ve read). That relationship likely factored into Weaver’s faith he showed Grant with the contract and role.

There is no certainty in this, so you may as well swing, and swing hard. It would be irresponsible of me to say that Jerami Grant’s progression is something that can be replicated. I’d posit the opposite, but without both sides taking a chance, how would we even know what’s there otherwise?

I thought that I had Jerami Grant figured out as a player and I’m happily wrong.

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