Players with excellent athletic tools can make it far in the NBA. As long as they show the activity level, their individual athleticism combined with great physical attributes lead to a higher NBA upside. One of those players plays for Syracuse, and his name is Jerami Grant.
Standing at just 6’6″ without shoes, Grant switches between power forward and the small forward positions. He’s able to get away with it, because he has a 7’2.5″ wingspan, with a standing reach over 9′. What does that mean? He has a standing reach comparable to elite power forwards and centers in the league. He has a reach equal to Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, Kevin Durant, Brendan Wright, and Jordan Hill. With his lean frame, he projects as a small forward at the NBA level. As a prospect, he compares similarly to Kawhi Leonard, a 6’6″ player with a 7’3″ wingspan, but an 8’10″ standing reach.
Athletically, he’s among the elite of NCAA basketball. Wiggins may be the best overall athletic prospect, but Grant combines unusual strength, despite his slender frame, with quick explosiveness around the hoop. He has a tremendous initial jump that may remind others of Shawn Marion. He bounces quickly off the floor and the added wingspan allows him to finish quickly in the painted area. He displays good quickness and speed on the open floor, but doesn’t have the outright speed like LeBron James. Still, he excels in transition and is an excellent finisher in the painted area.
Offensively, he displays limited power forward skills in a small forward body. While that is perceived as a negative, there is plenty of upside for the guy with athletic tools. Guys like Travis Outlaw and Gerald Wallace have shown similar athletic tools, but with aggressive play and good work ethic, developed solid jumpshots, became very good defenders, and retained their ability to finish in the painted area. The Spurs took a risk with Kawhi Leonard, essentially a power forward with small forward size out of the 1st round. Leonard has been showing his progression as a wing player and provides tremendous impact for the Spurs. Grant has yet to show any kind of advanced ball-handling. Instead, he compensates with long strides to the rim, rarely more than two dribbles, using his reach to get to the cup. His jumpshot hasn’t extended out consistently to the 20′ mark yet, but from midrange, shows good form and hits well. Due to his soft hands, he has an assist-to-turnover ratio greater than 1:1, which is indicative of excellent ball protection required of NBA wing players.
A video of his offensive repetoire in gametime situations: Jerami Grant Scores 24 points Against Duke In Overtime
Defensively, the potential is there. He blocks shots like an elite power forward, blocking dunk attempts at the hoop. Ball-anticipation needs a lot of work, but he’s able to make up for a lot of his mistakes on athleticism and reach alone. Still, he has the physical tools to become an elite defender at the small forward position if he chooses. He simply doesn’t have the strength to deal with post-up power forwards just yet. The quickness, length, vertical ability, and desire to protect the rim are all there.
A video of a key defensive play: Jerami Grant Blocks St. John’s Shot
Overall, Jerami Grant is a high risk prospect. A team shouldn’t be looking for immediate impact as soon as he is drafted. Instead, he’s a long-term project player with the ability to hang with other elite NBA players on physical tools alone. Kawhi Leonard is a product of San Antonio’s player development, and he shows tremendous IQ combined with his physical skills. After one summer, he developed into a solid 3-point shooter. Travis Outlaw developed a midrange game along with the ability to finish at Portland before being traded to Sacramento. Gerald Wallace showed unnatural levels of aggression attacking the basket early on, and became a tremendous finisher, defender, and rebounder for his NBA career. Grant has the ability to be just as good as any of the listed players. He needs to add some strength, polish the jumpshot out to the 3-point line, and add some movies in the post to be a tremendous two-way impact player. It’s up to him to fulfill that potential.