Should He Stay or Should He Go - The Great Jerami Grant Debate

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Every weekday morning my CNY Central colleague Alex Dunbar and I take a few minutes to discuss Syracuse Orange basketball before our boss tells us to knock it off and get back to work. So after hashing out Tyler Ennis the other day, we turned to Jerami Grant as he decides whether to leave SU early for the NBA Draft.

Jeremy: For the sake of this discussion, let's set aside the widely accepted notion that a college player would be galactically stupid to pass up millions of dollars in guaranteed NBA money. Because if you think about it, the immediate money factor will win every "should he stay or should he go" argument every time.

That said, should Jerami Grant leave Syracuse University for the NBA? Show your work.

Alex: This question is a trap and has turned my already fragile mind into rubble. There is no correct answer and no wrong answer. I had to go the Inception route and try to avoid limbo.

Most scouts seem to look at Grant as an out of this world athlete with upside. His current projected draft position mid to late teens, early 20's is based on upside. If Grant comes back next year as a better ball handler with a crossover and can reliably hit a three with a hand in his face he could be a top ten pick next year. If Grant comes back and plays at the same level as this year (still pretty great but offensively raw) his stock could drop. It's stressful even for a guy who only watches 30-35 regular season games a year on TV.

Basically, I'm glad Harvey and Horace Grant know everything there is to know about the NBA and can help him decide.

So what do you think? Orange fans want Jerami Grant to come back but is it worth it for him?

Jeremy: "Worth it?" Well that's the $10 million question, isn't it?

I don't think Grant's decision is nearly as cut and dried as Tyler Ennis, for a few reasons:

#1 - Grant isn't projected to be picked as high as Ennis.

#2 - His offensive skills aren't nearly as polished.

#3 - The forward position is much deeper than point guard in this year's draft.

Whenever there's a serious debate over whether an SU player is ready to turn pro, I immediately think of John Wallace. Wallace could have left school after his junior year and would have probably been a late first round or early second round pick. Instead he came back to SU, worked on his face-up game and outside shot, led his team to the national title game, and ended up as a mid-first round pick and Syracuse folk hero. Wallace probably realized that there aren't a hell of a lot of 6'8" power forwards in the NBA who rely solely on athleticism and leaping ability to stay in the league. Guys like that need to show something more - just ask Hakim Warrick. What does Grant have to offer a prospective employer that 50 other guys in the NBA (or the D-League) don't?

Alex: The John Wallace point is spot on. It makes a lot of sense and I agree with it in Grant's case. But.... devil's advocate time. What about James Michael McAdoo from North Carolina? Could have been a top 10 pick if he came out in 2012, now he's barely on the board. As teams had a chance to scrutinize every aspect of his game, the "upside" buzz was lost and now everyone is a skeptic. McAdoo is arguably a better player than Grant, but will be fighting to make a roster and no GM will be committed to him at all. At least Donte Greene was in an eight-man rotation.

Also - Think about Chris Marcus from Western Kentucky. Tons of buzz, was a projected top 20 pick in the 2002 draft but went back to school to heal from an injury and work on his game. Undrafted in 2003. According to Wikipedia, "Today he still resides in Charlotte, working various menial jobs".

Jeremy: Those are two great examples. So again it comes back to grabbing the money while you can. If a player feels he's a "guaranteed" first round pick, then popular opinion says he has to leave.

However, if the player is as raw as Grant is, he has to pray he lands on a team that will help him develop and not leave him to fend for himself. Remember, he's probably going to be a mid-first round pick. So he's likely going to a team that either barely made or barely missed the playoffs. How many of those teams will have the patience to allow him to grow when they're trying to win games now?

Alex: There's only a handful of teams I would consistently rely on to actually develop a raw prospect. San Antonio, Indiana, Memphis and Chicago. Maybe Portland, maybe Golden State. As we talked about with Tyler Ennis, a bad situation can do a lot of damage to a young career.

If Grant can develop into an NBA style small forward over the next six months (basically what John Wallace did between his junior and senior seasons) coming back could help his career over the long term.

Here's another factor - with an uncertain SU backcourt next year and no true point guard, should Grant be worried?

Jeremy: There's some logic to that. If Grant doesn't have someone to get him the ball on a consistent basis, his scoring opportunities could suffer. Since he isn't the most polished offensive player in the world, he could use a pass-first playmaker who can set him up for easy buckets. Kaleb Joseph is essentially an unknown quantity right now, so we can't say for sure just yet what kind of PG he will be. It's safe to say he has a lot to live up to considering his two immediate predecessors.

On the other hand, if Grant comes back he'll probably be SU's #1 offensive option. He'll get all of the shots and usage he wants. That's probably the best (and perhaps only) reason to stay. Does he want to be The Man on his college team or possibly ride the pine in the pros?

Alex: That might be one of the riskiest win/win situations any athlete can find themselves in. Grant and Montrezl Harrell from Louisville have two of the toughest choices in this year's draft. Both are raw but can be game changing playmakers. Both of them are also lurking in the 20s neighborhood of most mock drafts so NBA scouts aren't giving them an overwhelming endorsement either. Grant is lucky. His dad and uncle are on a first name basis with decision-makers in the league and will have access to the best information any NBA prospect could get.

Jeremy: There's a second reason to stay. I don't know (or really care) about Grant's personal finances, but I assume since his old man played in the NBA for 11 years he isn't hurting for spending money. In a case of the apple not falling far from the tree, Harvey Grant was also a tweener SF/PF who was picked in the middle of the 1988 first round. The difference is Harvey spent four years in school, at Clemson, Oklahoma, and a community college stint in-between.

Of course Jerami wants to make his own millions, but 'hardship' (as they used to call early entry) isn't a reason for him to leave. In fact, it might be a cushion to stay. Probably not enough, though.

So, put on your NBA scout cap for a minute. What is your report on Grant's strengths and weaknesses?

Alex: I think Grant could be a Shawn Marion type player. Unbelievable athleticism, can slam an offensive rebound or alley-oop from just about anywhere inside the three point line and can make plays on both ends of the floor that 70% of NBA players just can't do. If his jumper gets better, he would be a matchup nightmare. Big guys couldn't handle his quickness, small players couldn't handle his ability to jump right over them.

The downsides are pretty well documented. His jumper is decent but his release is a little clunky/ slow. An NBA team would want to see his ball handling improve significantly.

Jerami Grant is to the NBA draft what Dez Bryant is to your fantasy football draft. There are legitimate question marks but you don't want to see your high school buddy beat you by 55 points because Dez Bryant made professional DBs look silly. Jerami Grant is the kind of player who could have a Gatorade ad campaign built around him in three years.

Jeremy: Marion is a nice comparison. Let's just hope Grant doesn't pick up that funky set shot. I think the ultimate possibility for him could be a Pistons-era Dennis Rodman - but without the crazy. 6'8", rebounder/defender, thin and wiry, athletic as all hell, but limited on offense. That would be a great career to aspire to, but someone like Rodman is literally a once in a generation player.

The problem is that today's NBA defenses are too sophisticated for a team to trot out a player who can't contribute on the offensive end. If a team has a player who can't score, or at least pose a threat to score, it puts a ton of pressure on his four teammates to pick up the slack. That's why I think Grant has to turn himself into a serviceable option with the ball in his hands. He should to be able to make an open mid-range jump shot and get to the basket with more than one dribble. Right now the release on his jumper is so slow you can time it with a sun dial, and EVERYONE knows that when he put the ball on the floor to drive he's only going to dribble once before he tries to spin into the lane for that weird off-balance floater thing that he does. Dayton had him scouted perfectly, and you can bet NBA defenders - guys who are bigger and stronger than he is - will see that move coming a mile away.

A current player Grant should look to is Thunder forward Serge Ibaka. He came into the NBA as a raw leaper/defender/shotblocker with minimal ball skills, and has turned himself into one of the better jump shooting big men in the league. He is proof that players can develop in the pros, but I still think - money considerations aside - that Grant would be better served honing his skills in college for at least one more season.

That's probably the SU fan in me talking, though.

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