Detroit Pistons: How Jerami Grant can reach another level

Jan 3, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant (9)Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 3, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant (9)Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

Jerami Grant went to the Detroit Pistons for opportunity.

The opportunity to play for a Black Head Coach and GM (PAID CONTENT) and the opportunity to find out just how good of an NBA player he could be.

It was a gamble by Grant, to leave Nikola Jokic and the playoff bound Denver Nuggets. But after spending the early part of his career bouncing from franchise to franchise, playing roles where he was asked to fit in, it makes sense that he’d be drawn to the franchise that would let him stand out.

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So far, Grant’s bet has paid off. He flirted with making an All-Star Team and is in definite contention, probably the favorite, for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award.

Grant’s emergence as a star wasn’t a story a lot of people were predicting but it’s clear, with how natural of a transition Grant has made, it was always a matter of opportunity not ability.

Now, as we are wont to do when an NBA player proves himself a star – we ask a little more from them.

With Derrick Rose off in New York, Blake Griffin negotiating a buyout/trade, Delon Wright out two weeks with a groin strain, and Killian Hayes still out with a right hip injury, the Pistons roster is extremely short on playmakers.

This is another opportunity for Grant. Necessity is the mother of invention. Grant has honed his game to make himself better, can he take the next step and make his teammates better?

Detroit Pistons: Jerami Grant needs to improve his playmaking

Grant never really showed much affinity for playmaking before arriving in Detroit, averaging only 1.2 assists in Denver. But this year, Grant’s assist numbers have ticked up to 3.0 per game.

Sure, some of that can be attributed to the ball being in his hands more but check this out – Grant’s touches per game have risen from 36.6 in Denver to 63.4 per game in Detroit according to A 73% increase, but jumping from 1.2 to 3.0 assists per game is a 150% increase. Meaning he’s creating more assists per touch than he did in Denver.

Like Grant’s scoring ability being revealed with more opportunity, it could be that Grant’s playmaking ability could just use a bit more opportunity.

Grant, instead of getting his touches as a secondary option after a Jokic and Jamal Murray dribble hand off, is now getting the first look in the offense and with the rest of the offense expecting him to create.

That difference has shown especially in his potential assists, passes that would’ve led to assists if his teammates would’ve made the shot, have risen from 2.1 per game in Denver to 5.7 per game, a rise that far outpaces his increase in touches. Grant’s looking to get his teammates involved, but they aren’t hitting the shots.

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These are promising signs that Grant has the ability to create more than he’s shown so far in his career. He’s decisive with the ball, quick to either attack or keep the ball moving – these are the signs of a player who knows how to play winning basketball. Those types of players like to get their teammates involved.

Detroit Pistons: Jerami Grant’s ball handling could improve

One area that could be a huge boon to Grant’s playmaking ability is an increased focus on developing his ball-handling. Because Grant is so smart with the ball, either attacking or moving it, we haven’t seen many exhibitions of his ball handling skills outside of quick drives and probes. I’d love to see Grant start bringing the ball up and initiate the offense a couple of times a game.

One way the Pistons can help Grant succeed as a playmaker, as we saw on this great pass from Grant during the Memphis Grizzlies game last week, is to position Mason Plumlee in that weak side area near the basket during half-court sets more. When defenses inevitably collapse around a driving Grant, Plumlee can act as a safety valve. That pass can be easy and clears Plumlee out of the lane for Grant drives, which Plumlee’s unreliable jumper doesn’t typically allow.

Surrounding Grant with shooter heavy lineups is another way to create some playmaking opportunity in the interim with Saddiq Bey, Wayne Ellington and Sri Mykhailiuk. Grant has already shown improvement in his kick out game – giving him more options can’t hurt. Those kick outs are incredibly important – if Grant can continue to develop that pass during this season, it’ll only make him more valuable.

The Detroit Pistons aren’t presently constructed to win. This franchise is being totally reconstructed to develop young talent like Jerami Grant. He’s already exceeded expectations, the Pistons should take this year as an opportunity. An opportunity to see exactly what type of player Jerami Grant can be.

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