Jerami Grant Is Having A Breakout Year
The Pistons’ “Bad Boy” era will be remembered for having one of the best backcourts in NBA history in Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars. However, role players like Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman, and Vinnie Johnson were equally as important in helping the team win back-to-back titles.
Last season, it appeared that the Denver Nuggets had established their internal hierarchy, identifying which players were stars and which players would play integral supporting roles. Jerami Grant played a key role in helping the team make a surprise appearance in the Western Conference Finals. It appeared he would be a part of the foundation of a franchise becoming a perennial championship contender.
However, in a move that surprised the basketball world, Grant agreed to terms with the Pistons in the off-season. Denver then facilitated a sign-and-trade that landed the former Syracuse star in the Motor City on a three-year $60 million contract. He was cashing in on the stock his stellar play as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Nuggets had bought him. Being asked to carry an NBA team is a tall task for any player, but so far Grant looks comfortable in his new role as the leader of the Pistons.
Taking on a Bigger Role
Over the years, the role of the “sixth man” in the NBA has become not just important but celebrated. Players like John Havlicek, Kevin McHale, and James Harden started their careers as the first man off the bench before eventually becoming stars. Last season in Denver, Grant flourished in this role. Averaging 12.0 points per game, he could be relied on to carry the second unit or blend in seamlessly when starters were on the floor. In fact, prior to this season, Grant had only started in 37 percent of the NBA games he’d played in. Coaches and teammates sang his praises, but he was always viewed as a member of the supporting cast. However, since arriving in Detroit, Grant has started in every single game. That looks to remain the case for the foreseeable future.
This season, Grant is averaging 23.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. He’s also averaging 6.1 free throw attempts per night. Getting to the free throw line means Grant is not just settling for jump shots. He’s attacking the basket and forcing defenses to collapse on him. Once inside the paint, he can either score or pass out of the double-team to an open teammate. This puts constant pressure on the defense and also helps to get the opposing team’s front line in foul trouble. Stars force their opponents to make adjustments. When going up against the Pistons, opposing coaches have to game plan for Grant’s attack. That’s a sign of a player who truly impacts the game.
The point guard is often viewed as the leader of the team even if he’s not the leading scorer. Steve Nash was the leader of the “seven seconds or less” Phoenix Suns while Ama’re Stoudemire led the team in points. Chris Paul was the leader of the “Lob City” L.A. Clippers while Blake Griffin led the team in scoring. Although Grant has been the Pistons’ leading scorer since he arrived in Motown, one could argue that veteran point guard Derrick Rose was equally as valuable. However, after informing management he was ready to go, Rose was traded to the New York Knicks. Now with the team’s stabilizing veteran presence out of the picture, the onus of leadership falls squarely on the shoulders of Grant. If the 23.5 points per game he’s averaging are any indication, he’s up for the challenge.
Uncertainty Surrounding the Team
As much as Grant’s stellar play has been a bright spot in Detroit, there is still a ton of uncertainty regarding the direction the team is headed. Unfortunately, the team has the worst record in the Eastern Conference; a playoff appearance seems to slip further out of their grasp with each additional loss. Griffin, once a perennial All-Star, is being held out of games by the front office. They are currently deciding whether to trade him or buy out his contract. Still, optimism surrounding the team’s future remains high. Head Coach Dwane Casey indicated he believes the Pistons can build a winning team with Grant as their centerpiece. If that is to happen, the team is going to have to draft wisely in addition to making key off-season acquisitions.
Grant has been a role player his entire NBA career until this season. When he arrived in Detroit, he was asked to be the focal point of the offense. He has not disappointed. Although the team is in transition, it appears they have found their go-to guy for years to come. Grant has always wanted to be the leading man and not just a member of the supporting cast. The Detroit Pistons gave him a chance to take the lead, and he hasn’t backed down from the challenge. If Jerami Grant continues his current level of play, the Motor City is in good hands for years to come.
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