When looking at the top of this year’s draft class, we see that the top five prospects are all entering the NBA after just one season of college or professional ball overseas. But beyond these top five prospects are several players that played in the college ranks through their senior season. Jerian Grant is one of these players.
Grant spent five years at the University of Notre Dame as he red-shirted his freshmen season. In his last season at Notre Dame, he led the Fighting Irish to an ACC Conference Tournament Championship, the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament, and earned First Team AP All-America honors. With a standout senior season, Grant has put himself on the map for teams looking for a pass-first point guard who also has the ability to score and play both guard positions.
However, one of the things that makes Grant so appealing as a prospect is also something that potentially hurts his stock. Spending five seasons at Notre Dame, Grant enters the draft as a 22-year-old. The upside to this is that Grant is one of the most experienced players in this year’s draft class. The downside is that some teams may view him as a limited prospect since he is much further along in his development than players like Tyus Jones, for example. Grant doesn’t see it that way, however. Speaking with reporters at the NBA Draft Combine, Grant noted his age and experience as a positive part of his profile as a prospect.
“I think me being this old just means I’m more ready right now,” said Grant. “At the same time, I can get a lot better. The way I work, I know I’m going to get a lot better. But being 22, I think I’ll be able to come in and help a team when they need me right now.”
Grant is well aware of where his strength as a prospect and player lies. He is a solid playmaker and distributor that is always looking to find teammates easy baskets. He can make just about every pass there is, can drive to the rim and kickout to shooters, and is especially skilled in the pick and roll. In addition, Grant can use his size to post up opposing guards, often finding teammates cutting to the basket or open at the three-point line.
Grant is also capable of scoring on his own, and has the size and skill to play shooting guard, but he is at his best when he is setting up his teammates for easy shots. When asked what he would be able to contribute to an NBA team from day one, Grant referenced his ability to make plays for others and his defensive skills as well.
“Make the guys around me better,” said Grant. “Get guys easier looks. Make plays for the team. Offensively, I think that’s what I’m best at. But defensively, point guard I think is the deepest position in the league right now, so just being able to guard my guy and excel at that position.”
While Grant is already a talented distributor, his defensive abilities are still in question. Standing 6’5 and weighing in at 204 pounds, Grant has good size to play either guard position. In addition, Grant has great instincts on defense as he often jumps passing lanes for steals and pressures opposing guards by anticipating their next moves and jumping to that spot. But Grant, at times, loses focus on defense, gets caught on screens, and struggles to keep opposing guards out of the paint. This is something that Grant can certainly improve on, especially as he adds muscle to his frame. And while his defense isn’t quite where it needs to be, it certainly doesn’t overshadow the other parts of his game.
For teams that need help at point guard right now, Grant’s ability to make an impact as soon as next year makes him an appealing prospect. And for teams that question his upside, Grant asserts that he is motivated to work on his game and be the best player he can be.
“A hard worker,” Grant said when asked what an NBA team will be getting if it drafts him. “I think I work as hard as anyone, or harder than anyone in the draft, so I think I [will] continue to get better. A guy who makes his teammates better, playmaking skills, just somebody that’s going to work as hard as he can to be the best he can be.”
Just about everyone understands that Grant’s strength lies in his ability to make plays for others. But Grant believes that people misconceive another aspect of his game.
“I think my jump-shot,” Grant said when asked which part of his game people have a misconception of. “I think I can really knock down shots. I didn’t get a lot of clean looks, like I said, last year, so just proving that I can knock down shots at a consistent basis is going to be big for me.”
Grant is right that many people question his strength as a shooter. His mechanics are good, but not great. He can knock down three-pointers, but is probably more comfortable shooting off the dribble. And while he is dangerous from midrange, he often settles for tough fade-away jumpers, and tough pull ups early in the shot clock. Grant understands this, and has been working on strengthening these aspects of his game.
“Consistency with my jump-shot and my floater, just different ways to finish,” Grant said when asked what part of his game he has been focusing on since the end of his final season at Notre Dame. “And of course getting stronger and getting faster.”
“In the morning, I get up, go ball-handling, working all out, getting shots up. Second workout is strength and conditioning and then late at night just getting a lot of shots up with my trainer.”
As a senior, Grant averaged 16.5 points, 6.6 assists and three rebounds per game, while shooting 57.2 percent from two-point range and 31.6 percent from beyond-the-arc. In Basketball Insiders’ latest consensus mock draft, Grant is projected to go anywhere from No. 11 to No. 14 on draft night. Draft Express currently projects Grant to be taken at No. 21 by the Dallas Mavericks. The fact that Grant could potentially go in the lottery is a product of his hard work and development over his five years at Notre Dame.
Another thing Grant seems to have developed during his five years at Notre Dame is how to answer questions from the media and how to approach his interviews with teams. When asked how he prepares to interview with teams, who are known to sometimes ask odd questions, Grant offered a strong response.
“Just being professional, said Grant. “At the end of the day, you have to be honest, be professional, and be yourself. I think that’s what they want to see the most. An honest guy, somebody just being [himself].”
For teams looking for a pass-first point guard with good size and a strong work ethic, there is arguably no better prospect outside of the top five than Grant. However, as previously mentioned, the issue with older prospects is that teams often look at the player’s age and wonder how much room for improvement is left. A prospect like Zach LaVine (from last year’s draft), who played sporadically and in limited minutes in his one and only season in college can shoot up the draft board because of the player he could ultimately be one day. Grant is on the opposite end of this spectrum. If he is drafted in the lottery, it will be because a team is convinced that he can play meaningful minutes early on in his career, and has the potential to keep improving.
Considering how far his game has come in his time at Notre Dame, his understanding of his strengths and weaknesses and his drive to be the best player he can possibly be, it seems that Grant should be off the board fairly early on draft night.
Basketball Insiders’ Draft Coverage
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