Keep an Eye on Jerami Grant

Jerami Grant has silently put together a solid contract year for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Playoff teams who are strapped for cash will surely have their eyes on him during the NBA's 2018 free agency period.

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jerami Grant has quietly had a great season on the last year of his rookie deal. It's never too early to look to free agency, and Grant has far out-performed his $1.5 million payout this year as well as the typical expectations of a second-round pick. While a lot of potential free agent suitors have to watch their pennies this summer, Grant will likely attract a lot of attention as someone who can be plugged straight into a strong playoff team without the usual price tag.

I have a pseudo-theory that essentially states that role players who aren't already on a massive contract are generally agreeable to sign for a reasonable amount of money instead of demanding a Timofey Mosgov-sized deal as soon as they hit the market. While the politics of negotiations are centered around agents getting highest offer possible, the lack of money to go around this summer, paired with recent stories of players losing out on money after asking for too much, could signal to Grant that $15 million over three years, for example, is a good deal these days. Lou Williams, who almost made an All-Star appearance, just signed for $21 million over three years, which is a strong signal that there won't be any shockingly lucrative deals on the table in the coming months. 

As a side note: Keep an eye on Enes Kanter this summer, too. He just switched agents and has a $18.6 million player option that he might actually turn down

Why should a team look to add Grant? Simply put, today's NBA revolves around two types of players: point guards and two-way wings, and Grant fits the latter category as well as any.

While Grant isn't a statistically spectacular player, a lot of his appeal lies in the analytics. Per Synergy, Grant's 1.081 points per possession on offense puts him in the 89th percentile of all players, and his 0.87 points per possession on defense puts him in the 71st percentile. To be fair, "two-way" is a little generous as it typically implies an affinity for shooting. Not shooting-the-lights-out type shooting, but shooting well enough that the defense has to respect you. Grant's three-point percentage has taken a sharp dive from last season (38 percent to 27 percent), but he still plays his role well by shooting corner threes when they're open, and cutting to the basket when they're not. In fact, slashing to the rim might be Grant's most marketable skill. The Thunder score 1.351 points per possession in transition with Grant, putting him in the 92nd percentile.

I'd add that transition offense is mostly a team stat, but it's important to point out exactly how Grant fits in here. His transition offense doesn't come as a result of his teammates setting him up with free buckets, but because Grant himself is one of the reasons the Thunder defense can play 48 quality minutes in a game. Here's an example of the type of hustle you can get from Grant:  

While this is a borderline flop, one could argue that Shroeder jabbing with his forearm could have been called as a charge. Grant effectively takes a charge and blocks a shot on the same play to initiate a fast break. 

It's hard to know what Grant's ceiling is, especially with his shooting ability in question, but his career year could be a sign that he's got a ways to go. While his numbers were stagnant, his 14.6 points and seven rebounds per 36 minutes are career highs, and his 120 offensive rating is probably misleading, but pretty cool regardless. Most importantly, Grant is the type of guy who always runs hard, makes hustle plays, and runs into people for the good of the team. Any team with some spare change is the market for a player like that, and the efficiency he brings on interior scoring is a nice bonus. Six-foot-eight is an acceptable height for a stretch-and-switch power forward these days, making him even easier to plug into any system.

Will the Thunder give him a small offer to cut costs in free agency, or will a soon-to-be-contender make a move to bolster their bench? We'll probably have an answer soon after the draft. 

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