Jerami Grant Is Oklahoma City’s Under-the-Radar Star

    No. 2 Syracuse entered its 2014 home game against No. 17 Duke undefeated and off to the best start in program history. The Orange were playing the Blue

    January 21, 2019

    No. 2 Syracuse entered its 2014 home game against No. 17 Duke undefeated and off to the best start in program history. The Orange were playing the Blue Devils for the first time as members of the same conference and the primetime showdown was bound to live up to the hype.

    “It was a big game for us, I knew we had to get the win however we could,” Thunder forward Jerami Grant said in an exclusive interview with Stadium.

    Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime, adding to the game’s eventual legacy. It was in overtime when Grant took over, dominating Duke in the paint. The Blue Devils were without their top big guys due to foul trouble and Grant took advantage.

    “It kept going to me in the post,” Grant said.

    After Grant’s dunk opened the scoring for Syracuse, Duke hit another 3-pointer. Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim called a timeout to get the Orange settled.

    “Coach Boeheim is pretty straightfoward with everything he says,” Grant said. “[He] definitely told them to keep getting me the ball, keep feeding me and it worked out for the best.”

    Grant got the ball on the next three Syracuse possessions, hammering home two dunks and seeing a layup roll out. With the Orange down 87-86, Syracuse got the stop it needed. Grant once again got the ball on a roll to the basket, but was fouled before he could convert the layup. He went to the free-throw line with the chance for Syracuse to take the lead.

    On the season, Grant was shooting 66 percent from the charity stripe but he was 8-8 in the game up till that point.

    “Just wanted to knock ’em down,” Grant said on his mentality at the line. “Get the game over with.”

    Grant hit both free throws and Syracuse held on late to remain unbeaten. Grant had a career-high 24 points and added 12 rebounds in his best college game.

    “It was one of my greatest Cuse experiences,” Grant said.

    After he decided to forgo his final two seasons of eligibility, the 76ers drafted Grant in the second round of the 2014 NBA draft. Philadelphia was in the middle of its rebuilding phase dubbed “The Process” when it drafted Grant. He started 52 games during his second season with the 76ers, but got dealt to Oklahoma City at the beginning of the following season.

    All of sudden, Grant went from a rebuilding team to a contending one. The Thunder had a superstar in place in Russell Westbrook and a budding center in Steven Adams. Grant said Westbrook’s energy level has helped him develop.

    “It’s amazing. He raises everybody else’s level of energy, including mine,” Grant said. “[I] definitely feed off his energy and it allows me to play at a higher level.”

    The addition of Paul George in the 2017 offseason further cut into Grant’s minutes, but the forward’s developing 3-point shot allowed him to carve out a complementary role that eventually grew into a starting spot this year. Grant is currently hitting from behind the arc at a career-best rate. His increased volume has helped the Thunder effectively stretch the floor with an otherwise shooting-challenged starting lineup.

    Season 3-point Attempts Per Game 3-point %
    2014-15 2.4 31.4
    2015-16 1.9 24.0
    2016-17 (total with PHI and OKC) 1.5 37.1
    2017-18 1.4 29.1
    2018-19 (through 24 games) 3.1 38.7

     

    Grant discussed his development as a 3-point shooter after taking just 20 career 3s in his two seasons at Syracuse.

    “My team didn’t really need for me to do it, especially my second year,” Grant said on his lack of 3-point attempts in college. “When I got to the NBA, you know the NBA is changing. When [the Thunder] need for me to do it, I’m able to do it.”

    It’s not just his 3-point shooting ability that makes Grant the perfect complementary player for Oklahoma City. His ability to defend the rim and block shots is equally impactful.

    “It’s good. I think my teammates make it easy for. Give me the ball where its easy for me to score,” Grant said on his ability to stretch the floor and defend. “Whether its shooting the three or in the post, cut to the basket, whatever it is. On the defensive end, I just try to pride myself on stopping my man.”

    Players that excel on both ends of the floor, particularly big men, are highly valuable in today’s NBA. Only 17 players in NBA history have compiled at least 380 blocks and 600 3-point attempts in their first six seasons while shooting at least 31 percent from behind the arc. Grant is one of eight active players on a list including LeBron James, Draymond Green, Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki.

    This season, Grant has been even more special. He’s one of just four players averaging 1.2 blocks per game while shooting at least 38 percent from behind the arc on at least three 3-point attempts per game so far.

    Player (through Dec. 8) 3-Point Attempts Per Game 3-Point % Blocks Per Game 2018-19 Salary
    Karl-Anthony Towns 4.6 41.2 1.7 $7.8 million
    Marc Gasol 4.5 40.2 1.4 $24.1 million
    Robert Covington 6.3 39.1 1.5 $10.4 million
    Jerami Grant 3.1 38.7 1.3 $8.3 million

     

    Of the above players, only Covington and Grant will be locked into bargain contracts. Towns recently inked a five-year, $190 million deal that kicks in next season. Gasol has a player option for next year. Grant’s contract is particularly beneficial for the Thunder, who have committed big money to Westbrook, Adams and George for the next three seasons.

    Grant’s versatility and skill set make him fit seamlessly across nearly every lineup Oklahoma City plays. The Grant-Adams-Westbrook-George lineup, Oklahoma City’s most heavily used four-man combination, has a 10.9 net rating through 24 games, according to NBA.com/stats. Grant is featured in the Thunder’s three most-used four-man lineups. Every single one has a positive net rating.

    Four-Man Lineup (Through 24 games) Minutes Played Together Net Rating
    Grant-Adams-Westbrook-George 346 10.9
    Grant-Adams-Schroder-George 299 11.9
    Grant-Adams-Ferguson-George 248 21.3

     

    Individually, Grant has made an impact on both ends of the court. The Thunder are not only worse defensively when he heads to the bench, but their offense takes a huge nosedive.

    2018-19 Stats (through 24 games) Jerami Grant On Court Jerami Grant Off Court
    Thunder Offensive Rating 117.0 106.7
    Thunder Defensive Rating 103.9 106.2

     

    After staring off slow, Oklahoma City is 16-4 in its last 20 games and has slowly emerged as one of the top teams in the Western conference. Grant has meshed well with the Thunder’s “Big Three” and is emerging as a valuable cog in the starting lineup. He could be the key to Oklahoma City making noise in the postseason.

    “Just win,” Grant said on his goal this season. “Just win as many games as we can, get into the playoffs, and keep winning.”

    DOWNLOAD THE APP

    Have the full Stadium experience

    Watch with friends

    Get rewards

    Join the discussion