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Syracuse NBA Draft Preview - Where Will Jerami Grant Go?

The 2014 NBA Draft is almost upon us. Tyler Ennis, Jerami Grant, and C.J. Fair are hoping to hear their names called on Thursday night, with Ennis and Grant likely to be selected in the first round. I sat down with my CNY Central colleague and fellow basketball junkie Alex Dunbar to discuss the draft and where the three former Orange men are expected to land.


Up today: Jerami Grant

Jeremy: At the end of yesterday's Tyler Ennis discussion you asked me if I thought Ennis would have reconsidered his decision to turn pro if he knew he was going to universally drop our of the lottery and fall to the middle of the first round. So let's start with that same question. Does Jerami Grant still leave Syracuse University if he knew two months ago that he may not get picked until late in the first round - if at all?

Alex: My thinking is that Grant might have come back. Falling into the world of non-guaranteed contracts known as the second round is a dangerous place to be. I'll be surprised if he actually falls that far but he has good reason to be concerned. It's also possible that if he came back to SU, scouts would also bring back the same doubts next year but wouldn't give him as much credit for upside/potential.

I thought Grant's jump shot and ball handling looked to be improved in draft workout videos so I'm a little surprised to see him falling outside the first round in some mock drafts. If you were Grant's agent, how would you sell him to NBA teams?

Jeremy: I'd sell him as elite athlete and rebounder/defender who is long enough and quick enough to defend both forward positions, and is willing to do the dirty work a team needs to win. I'd compare him to Dennis Rodman and Shawn Marion, two other athletic tweener forwards who had great careers despite their funky offensive skills. I'd say "Look at Kawhi Leonard. He couldn't shoot when he came into the league either." Then I would pray they forgot how good Leonard was at San Diego State.

I'm curious as to what it is about Grant that is causing him to slip. Is it his offense, or the fact that he measured out a little shorter than advertised? Guys like Adreian Payne and Rodney Hood seem to be moving up the charts at Grant's expense. However, both of them were elite college scorers...

Alex: Small forwards who can create their own shot and still force defenses to extend out to the three point line are in high demand - two things Grant isn't known for. I think Grant can rebound, defend and make more of an impact on a game than Rodney Hood can but Hood does fit that NBA mold a little better.

Historically, some teams take the one on one and two on two games from workouts very seriously. That can lead to mixed results (Joe Alexander from West Virginia going 8th overall in 2008) and I'm not sure one-on-one is really the best way to gauge the talents of a guy like Jerami Grant.

I'll throw it back to you - what teams are the most likely to draft Grant and what teams would actually be the best fit for him right now?

Jeremy: If the mock drafts hold true, Grant will be picked somewhere near the end of the first round. That means, obviously, that he'll be going to a good team. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. It's good because he likely won't be expected to log heavy minutes right away. It's bad because there may not be a lot of minutes available for him.

Several of the mock drafts have Grant going to the Suns at #27. He could be a decent fit there. They play an up tempo style and like to push the ball, but they also expect some skill from their wings. He would also be behind the Morris twins on the depth chart. I think it would be wild if the Heat took a flyer on him with the 26th pick, or the Clippers with the 28th. He could do worse than ride the pine and learn from LeBron James or Blake Griffin for a couple of years, couldn't he?

Alex: I think the Raptors, Grizzlies, Hornets, and the NBA Jam video game developers from the mid-1990s are the teams that are most likely to take Grant. The Heat and the Clippers would be fascinating landing spots for him too. My pick is the Grizzlies. Mike Miller is expected to leave and all the other small forwards on the Grizz roster are in the twilight of their careers (Tayshaun Prince) or are actually shooting guards with two first names (Courtney Lee, Tony Allen)

Apparently we aren't the only ones turning our brains inside out trying to understand what to do with the curious case of Jerami Grant and the NBA. Take a look at this article and what the Suns had to say about Grant earlier this month.

Some NBA teams are clearly very afraid of a Tyrus Thomas situation (Chicago drafted him #4 overall in 2006, never really put it together, was amnestied by Charlotte in 2013.) The comparison isn't really fair to Grant (who I believe to be the better player and an infinitely better student of the game than Thomas) but I understand why people around the league make the connection. Great athletes don't always turn into great pros and can be a risk.

Jeremy: "...a small forward without ball handling or shooting abilities is a flat out liability."

That's what I've been saying! Today's NBA is a skill league. Players who can pass, cut, handle the ball, and shoot are quickly becoming essential to a team's success. Look at the Spurs and Heat. They often have FOUR guys who could bring the ball up the floor at any time, and the fifth is an all-star or hall of fame center. Granted, those two franchises are a cut above anyone else, but the NBA is a copycat league and modern rules on handchecking and zone defenses necessitate players be able to do something with the ball when they get it.

So we're back to the big question about Grant: Can he improve his offense enough to be a contributor in the NBA? or is he destined to be an end of rotation rebounder/defender type for his entire career?

Alex: I genuinely believe Grant can transition to a small forward. Many young players have improved their jump shots in the NBA (Westbrook, Rondo, Nicolas Batum) and Grant has a strong work ethic and commitment to the game. His athleticism gets a lot of attention but he also has incredible instincts for anticipating plays on both ends of the floor. Plus - he had some of his best games against big time competition - a good indicator of his play making ability at the next level.

Here's the deal - do you see any other guys going in the 20s of most mock drafts you would rather gamble on? Maybe Shabazz Napier but I would take Grant's potential over most of the other guys.

Jeremy: Maybe it makes me a bad Syracuse fan, but I'm not as sold on Grant's potential as you are. I hope I'm wrong. I hope he is drafted by a winning team who has a stud forward who can tutor him, and good coaches who can help him work on his game. I hope he spends some quality time in the D-League learning how to be a scoring threat - you know, basically what he could have done at SU this year. Even if he doesn't, he could still have a nice career in the NBA, but in my mind there will always be a "what if?" factor with an athlete like him.

To answer your question, there's a certain freshman point guard who has slipped in the most recent round of mocks, but I think he could have a long and solid career if he falls to the right franchise. You may have heard of him...

Alex: I just read that ESPN's Chad Ford bumped Jerami Grant into the second round of his latest mock draft. I take everything with a grain of salt but I do have a lot of respect for Ford. If it turns out to be an accurate prediction, I hope Grant and Ennis pull a Danny Green and prove all their critics wrong. (Admittedly, it took a little while for Green to do that.)

I'm also on the record as saying C.J. Fair could help an NBA team. It will be all about the situation, but Fair is a versatile enough guy who could be a solid deep bench player. Unfortunately, those players often become pawns in deals/contract situations (The Celtics loved SU alum Kris Joseph but were basically forced to release him.)

What a depressing paragraph I just wrote. Even the smell of a Dome Dog wouldn't cheer me up right now.

Jeremy: Mmmmm... Dome Dog.

I was legitimately bummed by what happened to Joseph. I thought he had a chance to catch on with the C's the first time around before he became trade fodder several times over. I thought he really got hosed when he was traded as part of the Celtics-Nets Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett deal and wasn't able to play in summer league last year because the trade was held up. That hurt his chances of catching on with another team, and he never really recovered.

Anyway, it will be a shame if Grant slips out of the first round. Second rounders get no guarantees whatsoever. There are plenty of people who think it's actually better to not be drafted at all than to be chosen in the second round, because if you're a free agent you can choose the situation that is best for you. It worked for James Southerland last year, to the extent that he at least made Charlotte's opening day roster and finished up the season with New Orleans. If he had been picked by the San Antonio or someone else there's no telling what might have happened to him.

Speaking of Fair, we'll touch on him tomorrow.