Jerami Grant played just 19 minutes in the Sixers' 107-96 loss to the Boston Celtics on Friday. He scored only 1 point, shooting 0-4 from the field and 1-4 from the foul line. It was the latest reminder that, despite his recent success, the 2014 second round pick is still, while promising, a work in progress.
"Our path is development, development, development with opportunity," Brett Brown said.
The fact that Grant has even performed well enough to show signs of regression as an offensive threat would have been considered an anomaly back in July, when he was chucking rainbow bricks from beyond the three-point line during the Orlando Summer League.
The Sixers' selection of Grant with the No. 39 overall pick last June was chastised by many: Yet another long, athletic project without a determined position who, of course, can't shoot — even if his life depended on it.
Grant attempted a grand total of 20 three-pointers during his two seasons at Syracuse. He shot 6-15 from beyond the arc as a freshman in 2012-13 (40 percent), then capped off his college career shooting 0-5 as a sophomore. Playing as more of a power forward in '13-14, 62.4 percent of Grant's shot attempts in the half court came around the basket, per Synergy Sports. Of all the small forwards in the 2014 NBA Draft, Grant ranked last in scoring just .58 points per possession on jump shots.
All the above doesn't make for a promising candidate to morph into a perimeter threat in the world's most prestigious basketball league.
Yet here we are almost halfway through February, 52 games into an NBA season, and Grant is currently the Sixers' most efficient three-point shooter at 39.3 percent. Entering Friday night's game in Boston, Grant ranked fifth among all non-guards in the league in catch-and-shooting three-point percentage at 44.4. Fifth.
"It's definitely been me just coming in and working on my jump shot," Grant told Liberty Ballers. "My three-point shot and things like that, I think the more I get in the gym, the better my shot feels."
Grant has worked extensively with shooting coach Eugene Burroughs. They've worked on widening his stance and shorting the wind up of his shooting motion. When Grant first arrived in Philadephia, his jump shot resembled Tim Tebow's clunky throwing motion.
After missing the team's first 15 games with a sprained right ankle, Grant's diligence has paid off. He's drained 44.7 percent of his three-point attempts (21-47) since January 1. Some may view that as a small sample size. The Sixers coaching staff feels it's legitimate improvement. Grant's gone through more structured, in-practice repetitions from beyond the arc this season than he has his entire life.
The next few weeks after the All-Star break will be a true test of that sample size. Now that Grant has essentially gone from the back of the bench to the Sixers' eighth man, he's also risen up opponent scouting reports and teams have already started closing out on his jumper.
"They're closing out a lot harder than they were at the beginning," Grant said. "It's a little different but, at the same time, I actually enjoy long closeouts because I'm essentially a driver and a slasher, so it's kind of just working to my advantage. I'm getting shots and I'm getting looks that I want."
With his length, 6-8 with a 7-3 wingspan, Grant can glide past a smaller, on-the-run, perimeter defender — or burst past a larger one — and get all the way at the rim in just one or two dribbles. That was the recipe behind his vicious jam on Jeff Withey a few weeks ago.
Dangerous three-point shooter. Athletic, explosive slasher. Jerami Grant has suddenly morphed into a multi-faceted offensive weapon. He's shown the skill set required to survive as a perimeter player in the NBA. The Sixers offensively are 4.6 points per 100 possessions better with Grant on the court.
He's not alone. No other team in the NBA wanted Robert Covington. Same goes for Hollis Thompson. K.J. McDaniels has also shown prowess on the wing after falling into the second round. Brown's staff has done a tremendous job working with rangy, raw swingmen. And all but McDaniels are locked in to the Sam Hinkie special four-year minimum contract.
"We've actually tried to grow perimeter players," Brown said. "We know that when Joel comes back into it and the space that we need, I'm thrilled with the direction our perimeter game has been going. And so Jerami's a part of that. He's been playing great."
After the initial speculation, it looks like Jerami Grant can thrive on the perimeter in the NBA after all.