In the modern NBA, Jerami Grant of the Detroit Pistons fits the build of a small-ball center. He is a proficient roller in the pick-and-roll. He can stretch the floor with ease. He has the athleticism and length to be a dependable defender in the post and along the perimeter as well.
A lot of teams in the NBA utilize players who primarily play power forward and slide them into the center spot for a small-ball lineup. The Phoenix Suns played Jae Crowder and Torry Craig at the five during their 2021 playoff run. In the 2019-20 season, the Houston Rockets used P. J. tucker, who stands at 6-5, as their starting center throughout the season and playoffs.
Like Jerami Grant, these players are above average three-point shooters and are strong defenders.
Detroit Pistons: Jerami Grant playing center in small-ball lineups
Grant filling in as a small-ball center would help Detroit maximize a combination of pace and shooting. With the 27-year-old at center, Detroit could utilize Trey Lyles, Saddiq Bey, or Isaiah Livers as the lineup’s power forward. All three players are strong three-point shooters who have enough size to play the four in today’s NBA.
This potential small-ball lineup could look something similar to:
- Killian Hayes
- Frank Jackson
- Cade Cunningham
- Saddiq Bey
- Jerami Grant
Hamidou Diallo, Lyles, and Livers are also potential candidates for the lineup.
Like with other teams who utilize a power forward at the center position, there are limits to small-ball lineups. Frankly, it is going to be practically impossible for most teams to have a power forward effectively play extended minutes at center.
The Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors are two of the few teams who can play their power forwards at the five.
For the Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo could legitimately be a full-time center. The Greek Freak stands at 6-11 and weighs in at 242 pounds. Antetokounmpo is built to play center but is so athletic he can dominate as a power forward.
Draymond Green and the Warriors are a different story. Green stands at 6-6. The former defensive player of the year possesses a physical style of play and defensive intelligence that allows him to play practically any position in the NBA. Some of the Warriors’ best lineups over the past decade have seen Green as the lone big man on the court.
Grant is not Antetokounmpo and he is not Green. Grant is not capable of spending extended minutes at center. Opposing teams, especially ones who utilize big lineups, could quickly punish and wear the 27-year-old down by using size to their advantage.
Grant cannot play center as his primary position, but in short bursts in a small-ball lineup, the Detroit Pistons could have an effective change of pace lineup to turn to throughout the duration of a game.
Ultimately, the majority of center minutes will belong to Isaiah Stewart and Kelly Olynyk, but when the team is in need of a change of pace or simply an extra player to fill some center minutes, Grant would be an effective small-ball option to turn to.