On November 1st, when Sam Presti sent Ersan Ilyasova and a protected 1st round pick to Philadelphia, I was like everyone else in Thunder nation—Who in the world is Jerami Grant?
You’ve got to remember, although the Sixers were fun and entertaining to watch this season due to “The Process” and company, the Sixers over the last few years have been a dumpster fire.
Of course, pairing the agony of receiving a player from the “dreaded Hinkie black hole,” Sports Illustrated published an article the day of the trade showing old tweets from Grant criticizing Russell Westbrook’s shot selection.
In those tweets he states “number 0 from OKC is bout to make em lose,” and Westbrook had 20 but was 3-for-14?????.”
After observing this little quip, in my eyes, Jerami Grant immediately had two strikes against him before he ever put on a Thunder jersey.
However, all those doubts were quickly redeemed by his second game, when he threw down this monster jam on Kevin Durant--and got in his face without hesitation.
At the time, with all the animosity Thunder fans had for Durant —and still have more than likely— Grant won us over in that moment--possibly forever. Following Grant’s poster, it was clear: Presti had found another gold nugget--hidden in the mind shaft of the Sam Hinkie black hole.
Grant’s Increased Range
Last season, Grant played a healthy 19 MPG for the Thunder--shooting 47% from the field and 37% from behind the arch. *Side note, Grant shot 39.4% on catch-and-shoot three pointers--which is a fantastic quality to have when playing with a dynamic point guard that draws attention like Russell. Although those percentages are impressive, Grant only attempted 4 shots per game--1.5 from 3 point range.
The number that really stands out is Grant’s three-point percentage, because he only shoots 30% for his career. In his last full year with the Sixers, he shot a lousy 24% from three, and 24.6 in catch-and-shoot opportunities. This is either drastic improvement by the young forward or last season was a complete mirage.
Further, while Jerami Grant is a sky walker that converted 66% of his shots at the rim last season, we know he can protect the rim and perhaps become the stretch power forward the modern NBA calls for.
But, can he add 2-4 more attempts per game while maintaining those shooting percentages? If so, it would be in the best interest of the Thunder to offer him a more permanent role with the franchise.
Lost On The Drive & Flamingo Fumblings
One major aspect of Grant’s game that he drastically needs to improve or quit attempting is driving to the basket in traffic. I’m not talking about drives when Jerami finds an open lane and turns it into electric avenue--almost breaking the rim and causing the lights in the building to flicker.
I’m talking about when he puts the ball on the floor, runs into defenders, and falls on the ground. I always joke that Grant driving to the basket is like the rotation of an ugly pass in football. When someone throws an awful pass that isn't a spiral we call it a duck. “Someone shoot that thing!” If Russell Westbrook is a spiral cutting to the basket, what in the world do we call Jerami Grant? A flamingo? Imagine a flamingo attempting to run and dribble a basketball, and that is exactly what Grant looks like when defenders close in on him.
I spent some time trying to find a video, but I think every Thunder fan knows exactly what flailing, falling to the ground, Jerami Grant I speak of… An interesting stat that backs up the flamingo Grant theory: He only shot 33% last season when he takes 3-to- 6 dribbles before attempting a shot. This is an aspect of his game that can not possibly get any worse, and although I would rather he never attempt putting the ball on the floor again, it looks like it is a priority this summer according to his Instagram.
No Easy Choices
With their cap situation, the Thunder have a tough decision to make this summer on Jerami Grant. Unfortunately, I think they could be heading toward the wrong decision.
The Thunder have until June 29th to decide if they will exercise Grant’s team option of $1.5 million dollars for next season.
In this NBA landscape that is a windfall contract, thanks Sam Hinkie, and almost impossible to not bite on if you are the Thunder’s front office. But, picking up that team option comes at a price, because if exercised, Grant will be an unrestricted free agent in 2018-19.
If he continues to work on his craft, uphold those shooting percentages, maintain his defensive versatility and ability, and continues to protect the rim the Thunder will most likely lose Grant to a team that has more cap flexibility.
The other option, the best option, is to roll the dice and waive his team option, and allow him to become a restricted free agent this summer.
The Thunder should look to lock him into a long term deal while his stock is still somewhat manageable and affordable. Although, they would be taking a hit financially up front in year one, this move could pay off in the long run if you believe Jerami Grant is a piece of the future going forward--which I think Presti does.
If Sam wants to re-sign Andre Roberson, offer Russell Westbrook the Designated Player Veteran Extension, and extend Jerami he will have to make some cuts to the roster--if avoiding the tax threshold is a priority.
If Presti can not find another home for Kyle Singler, the stretch provision would be a perfect start on chipping away salary.
So, what does the contract look like if they decide to extend Grant? Preferably 4 years $24 million, with a player option after the third year.
Further, Sam may be able to leverage the fact that Grant’s longtime friend Victor Oladipo is locked in long term as an impetus to strike a palatable extension. It wouldn't blow the roof off my doors to see Grant sign a 4 year $21 million deal to stay in Oklahoma City.
Though, I think the most Presti could gamble with is a 4 year $28 million dollar offer sheet. He could easily cost more than those figures, but I think it would be in the best interest of the organization, in the long run, to deal with Grant this offseason while his contract can be controlled; rather than, to exercise his option and watch him hit the market next summer unrestricted.
Presti and his team have less than a month to decide what direction to make with Jerami Grant, and I think it is one of the more fascinating subplots to the Thunder offseason which often gets lost in the weeds.