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Pacers draft prospects: A closer look at Jerian Grant

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Jerian Grant played big on the big stage for Notre Dame and will be one of the guards in Indy on Monday for a pre-draft workout with the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant had a fantastic season for the Fighting Irish, including an impressive showing in the NCAA tournament. That effort helped boost his NBA draft stock. Here's a look at his strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths:

  1. Passing Ability- Grant is a very unselfish player, who is more than comfortable taking less shots to ensure good looks for the team. Just from the eye test, during just about any game Grant played in, he made smart passes to open team mates. The numbers back this up as Grant has one of the highest per 40 assist numbers in this year's class at 7.3. This a daunting number that shows he is an outstanding passer who could have immediate impact for a team. In transition Grant is always keeping his head up, looking for open team mates for easy lay-ups, threes, and easy mid-range jumpers. Grant is very effective at making smart decisions on the pick and roll, making good passes to the big man coming off the screen, or pulling up for open looks when the defenders go underneath the screen. In the NBA with the growing number of pick and rolls, it is key that guards who handle the ball a lot have the ability to make smart and decisive passes to big men on the move. It is key to also point out how well he takes care of the ball. Grant had one of the lowest AST/TO ratios at 3.1, which is 3rd in the Draft Express 100. The combination of passing abilities and taking care of the ball, shows that has skills to help make him an instant asset in the NBA. For the Pacers, a guy who is more than able to get the ball up floor, making good passes, creates a lot of easy opportunities that the Pacers are looking to create. Good passing opens up the floor and develops a trust for team mates in knowing that they are going to get good looks all night long. Having a 1 or a 2 who is unselfish and makes everyone better, helps Hibbert, West, Mahinmi, and others get a lot better through better looks at the rim.
  2. Offensive Game- Grant is a really good offensive player, he has some of the highest PPP numbers in the draft, showcasing his efficiency and ability to make plays. His PPP comes in at 1.45, the most amongst anyone with 500+ possessions. His two point percentage is at 57.2%, meaning he can knock down the mid-range jumper with consistency. Grant is not the quickest, or fastest player, but he offers a quick first step that gives him a lot of opportunities to get to the rim, or dish to open shooters for good looks from three. Grant also offers wonderful pick and roll skills that provides him an immediate impact. Notre Dame ran quite a few pick and roll plays, where Grant showed he could knock down the three, mid-range, pass, and get to the rim if needed. The pick and roll is becoming a bigger part of the NBA and any player that is a great pick and roll player is an asset to any team. When this is coupled with his passing abilities, Grant is a deadly offensive threat. He offers the ability to create and make tough jumpers, while being unselfish and able to create lots of opportunities for everyone. One of the things I noticed in watching Notre Dame play this year was Grants knack for the big time. In most of the big games he played in, Grant made plays to help his team win, aka the Duke game, and others in March. His ability to make shots when the spot light is on, just adds another unteachable skill that pushes him to be a fantastic offensive threat. On top of Grants 6'5 size which makes him a good sized for PG for the NBA, which offers the versatility for him to play some at the two spot if need be. For the Pacers, a guard who is looking to create for his team mates, can score pretty consistently, and is a solid player, fits the team quite nicely. It would be hard for the Pacers to not put a guy with this skill on the floor with the top lines and his overall offensive boost helps the Pacers score, a spot they struggled at times.

Weaknesses:

  1. Defense- Grants defense was far from poor at Notre Dame, however he needs some improvements. He showed some good instincts as he averaged 1.6 steals per game and was able to make some defensive plays on sheer anticipation. At times he also showed good stance, slides, and movement against high quality competition. His instincts are his biggest asset on defense and a major reason that he had good steal numbers. However, Grant lacks toughness at the rim, on slides, and in being a pesky defender. Grants 205lb frame, which is not small, but does need some filling out, offers some difficulty in using his body and being physical with defenders. Grants lack of physicality leave him vulnerable to screens, which he often did not fight over, and to tough offensive opponents who took advantage of his low toughness. Grant sometimes lacks staying in a good defensive position which again leaves him open to being blown by, getting over screens, and contesting jumpers. In his defensive toughness, at 6'5, Grant should be a solid rebounder. His numbers show that is not the case, 3.3 rebounds per 40, and another area he needs to improve in hopes of becoming a good NBA player. If Grant is to become a good NBA player, he needs to become a better defender. In the defensive culture that the Pacers live in, for Grant to be an asset to the team, he needs to be better.
  2. Shooting Consistency- Grant is a pretty solid jumper shooter, but does need some work. One of his biggest weaknesses is his three point consistency as he knocked down only 34.5%. his somewhat low numbers may be due to his release, which is a little to the left of his face and a bit awkward. His release needs to be shored up in becoming a better jumper shooter. Grant also tended to settle for quite a few tough mid-range jumpers that are difficult to make and are often low percentage. Against the better defenders in the NBA Grant needs to make smarter decisions on the mid-range jumpers he chooses to take, as the make percentage will go down. To really push his game to the next level, Grant needs to sure up his jump shot. Possibly working on his release a little bit to put the ball in a better place, to the right of his face, to increase his consistency. He needs to work on hard on making more threes, which is a huge part of the NBA game and adds a versatility that makes him increasingly difficult to guard.
  3. Finishing- At the rim Grant was a little shaky. Against the top defenses he struggled to finish the tough, hard contact lay ups, which are common in top level competition. One of the key factors in his finishing abilities, is the need for him to fill out his 6'5 frame with a little more muscle. Adding more muscle gives him the chance to absorb contact and finish at the rim at a higher rate than he did at Notre Dame. If Grant struggled against better competition, then he will struggle mightily against the big men and bigger guards in the NBA. Being able to get to the rim and finish through contact, offers more and-1 opportunities and becoming a greater threat which allows him to draw more attention from defenders.

Overall:

Do not take me giving Grant only two strengths as meaning he is a poor player. Rather than breakdown all of his strengths in sub-categories, I chose to stick most of them in the offensive skill set and passing paragraphs, mostly to keep the post from being extra-long. Now, having seen Grant play a few times in the tournament and watching some game footage of him for this piece, I have come to really like him. When you watch him on the court he is always making smart plays, is super unselfish, can pass, and can score. Adding that together creates an offensive threat for the Pacers immediately. Coming to the Pacers offers Grant the chance to grow and learn from Hill, Watson, and others which could really bolster his game. At 6'5 he is big enough to offer versatility on offense and defense which adds to his instant asset skills. Grants weaknesses with shooting consistency, defense, and strength, are all things that can come with time and throughout the off season and during the next season, Grant could reasonably add all of those skills to his arsenal. I think Grant has a high potential to be a very good NBA player who can have serious impact for the Pacers. I think Grant should be high on the Pacers list especially in the 11-14 pick range.