Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Draft: Jerami Grant and the stock of the Syracuse tweener


Glancing over Clint Capela’s talents earlier this week, it became pretty clear that NBA squads love him for his raw athletic abilities. NBA scouts love Syracuse forward Jerami Grant for the same reasons, though there is a distinct difference that separates their respective draft stocks. While Capela might be a power forward that with added muscle could grow into a center, Grant is a college power forward that might have to develop into a small forward as a professional.

The necessity that Grant develops a perimeter game is that much greater for Grant than it is for Capela but like Capela, Grant is one of the most physically gifted players in the 2014 NBA Draft class.

“We knew he could roll and finish around the rim,” said Suns general manager Ryan McDonough. “His athleticism is pretty freakish. He made some athletic plays today that not many can make at that age.”

Forty-seven percent of Grant’s shots came at the rim, and as a sophomore playing with talented point guard Tyler Ennis, another 47 percent of those were assisted, according to Hoop-Math.com. That means 22 percent of his offensive scores were assisted shots at the cup. Fifteen percent of his total attempts were out of pick-and-roll situations, according to Draft Express’ scouting video. While Grant proved he could face up and use a dribble or two to attack the bucket, that’s about where his offensive prowess ends.

Grant struggles to go left and when defenses rotated his ball handling wasn’t crafty enough. Using a ridiculous 7-foot-2.75 wingspan and fantastic leaping ability, Grant has the necessary spin moves and touch to finish in tight quarters, but that obviously a different thing in college compared to the NBA. He’ll have to develop a jumper, at minimum, to keep defenses honest.

“The transition from the 4 to the 3 can be a difficult one, and it could take years for him to do, but he has the tools and athleticism to make it work,” McDonough said.

Suns coach Jeff Hornacek’s comments about Grant, juxtaposed to those by McDonough, tells just why the forward’s stock has taken a slight hit since the end of the NCAA season. Once considered as someone who could be sniffing the lottery, Grant is now projected to be one of the last five picks in the first round.

“He didn’t do a lot of (shooting) and he is working on it,” Hornacek said. “I think he could be a stretch four guy as long as he develops a shot.”

So is he a three or a four? Length goes a long way in determining the latter, and Grant has the length to play as a smaller power forward.

But as a rule, tweeners between the power forward and small forward spot almost always should play the four. It’s simply the tweener position that’s most dangerous for NBA teams to swing on — combo guards can learn to run a team or defend different types of players with their smarts, but a small forward without ball handling or shooting abilities is a flat out liability.

Grant’s strengths lie in his ability to defend a wide range of opponents thanks to his limberness and his length. His rebounding is above average, as 18 percent of his total shots at the rim came off offensive boards.

If the Suns have any interest in Grant, they’ll of course see his greatest strength as being a gazelle in the open court.

“My athleticism fits in well with this organization,” Grant said. “Being able to run the court and being an athletic wing fits in here. I just wanted to show my athleticism and that I can run the court and get out as quick as possible.”

Quotes provided by Jeff Sanders.