There have been very few times over the past two years where I've been outspoken against a move the Sixers have made. The selection of Jerami Grant in the second round of last year's draft was definitely one of them. I scoffed at the notion when I heard his name called. While youth and upside is all you can really ask for with a second round pick, I was not fond of drafting a classic tweener who never showcased an outside shooting ability during his two years at Syracuse, and was rather ineffective as a low post player.
More importantly, most of my complaints about the selection stemmed from the fact Grant was taken over a true wing prospect like Glenn Robinson III (who ended up becoming a Sixer in March after a bad stint in Minnesota), a talented shooter like Nick Johnson (who has not shot well during limited playing time in Houston), and an explosive guard like Markel Brown (who shot 26.6% from beyond the arc). Those events led to these series of tweets:
Yikes, don't like the Grant pick. Serious tweener.— Jake Pavorsky (@JakePavorsky) June 27, 2014
Grant is freakishly long. But he's stuck in the abyss between a SF and PF and I don't think he ever finds his way out.— Jake Pavorsky (@JakePavorsky) June 27, 2014
At one point I may or may not have referred to him as "3/4 of an iota" of talent. This is why I'm not in charge of a professional basketball team.
Over the course of the next 10 months, Jerami Grant completely changed my opinion of him as a player. I went from begrudgingly accepting him in June, to hearts-for-eyes emoji symbol in love with him by April, beaming about his possible future as an NBA player.
Grant's rookie year got off to a rough start, sustaining an ankle injury that kept him out of game action until November 29. However, that may have been the best thing for the 21-year-old's development. It gave him the opportunity to work with the Sixers staff on molding him into a small forward, adding aspects to his game that had been completely non-existent during his collegiate career.
He finished the season shooting 31.4% from three-point range, which is below-average for the NBA, but certainly well above the standards set for Grant. During January and February, he shot a combined 43.2% from beyond the arc, which really helped open up his entire game.
As defenders finally learned they actually needed to close out on Grant's shots, he began to display another new facet of his game: attacking the rim off the dribble. With his long strides and surprisingly good handles, Grant had few issues getting to the basket, throwing down some emphatic dunks in the process. These are skills I never thought he would be capable of doing his entire career, let alone in his rookie season.
His defense is worth getting excited about as well. Grant averaged a block a game this season, showing off all sorts of smarts on that end of the floor. Whether defending his man one-on-one or coming across from the weak side, Grant frustrated a ton of talented players throughout the season.
Watching Grant improve on both sides of the floor this season has been an absolute delight, and well worth me being completely wrong about him as a player. He has found his niche in this league, and it's as a perimeter shooting, shot blocking, super lengthy swingman.
I'm swiping right super hard on Jerami Grant, and hoping he'll respond to my advances on Tinder about possibly getting a cup of coffee together while never reading what I wrote about him in the past. There's plenty of work left for him to do, but he's well on his way to exceeding expectations.