In the latest edition of a multi-part series, editorial staff of The Juice Online discuss various topics on Syracuse basketball. Today’s topic: Jerami Grant has a lot of scouts drooling over his potential, and he may declare for the NBA draft. Should he do it?
Jerami Grant has been a hot commodity in mock drafts recently. With his freakish athleticism and developing game, Grant oozes NBA potential. Many mock drafts have Grant going in the middle to end of the first round. With that in mind, The Juice Online’s Jim Stechschulte and Wesley Cheng took each side of the issue.
Wesley Cheng: Jim, now that the season’s over, we can start looking toward next year. And no conversation starts about the 2014-15 team without asking whether Jerami Grant will return. So, will he?
Jim Stechschulte: I think Grant will return to Syracuse, Wes. Projected in the back half of the first round in most mock drafts, Grant is an incomplete player. He needs to tune up his perimeter shooting, ballhandling, and add strength to his frame and athleticism, which already make NBA types drool. More importantly, his family understands this, as both his father and uncle had long NBA careers. Next year’s freshman class also lacks the hype as this year’s, suggesting he can easily move up into the lottery, particularly after a season as the top offensive threat for the Orange.
WC: While I want Grant to stay at Syracuse, I’m not sure he will. He’s got some things to work on as you just mentioned, especially when it comes to that 15-18 footer. But I’ve never understood the theory that players need to stay in college in order to improve their game. Why couldn’t Grant improve that jumper while being on an NBA roster? Couldn’t he improve his jumper at practice against significantly better competition? The same goes for getting stronger and improving his handle. There aren’t weight rooms in the NBA or coaches who work with players on dribbling? Rookies get a guaranteed three years, and I’m guessing that Grant would take this time to work on all of his areas of need and blossom into a star.
JS: Of course Grant would be able to get better in the NBA, but almost all of that is work that he would have to do on his own. Is his jump shot going to improve against better competition in practice? Doubtful. As a player likely to get drafted by a playoff-caliber team in the back half of the first round, Grant will be at the mercy of a coach will want to win games now, not develop a player for three years later when the coach could be long since fired.
As the son of a former NBA player, there is no immediate financial need for him to turn pro. Why not stay, improve and get a bigger guaranteed contract next year? Next year’s #20 pick gets just over $3.8 million guaranteed in three years. The No. 10 pick, by comparison, gets just $6.25 million. And the numbers go up exponentially the higher you get drafted, as well as the NBA’s revenue grows annually.
WC: The work that he’d have to “do on his own” he’d probably have to do on his own at Syracuse, too. While he’d certainly be playing more at Syracuse than he would in his first few years in the NBA, regular season games aren’t the place to work on your jump shot. And I think there is something to be said about shooting over people in practice who are just as athletic as he is. I’d much rather practice against NBA talent instead of the Syracuse second unit or scout team.
As to your second point, while there may not be a financial need, he still has to worry about his career. Currently on NBADraft.net, he’s projected as the 18th pick to the Atlanta Hawks. Do you know how many upper classmen are projected ahead of him? Two. Doug McDermott (Sr.) and Elfrid Payton (Jr.). The NBA draft is all about potential, and Grant oozes that. We all assume that Grant’s jumper will improve, but what if it doesn’t in his junior year? Then, he’s suddenly a rising senior with less potential and a falling draft stock.
JS: Grant would be getting a lot of the offensive focus staying at Syracuse. He would be forced to show not only that he could score in practice, but also in games as the focal point of an opponent’s defensive scheme. Developing into a go-to-guy who can score in that situation would make him more appealing to an NBA team.
Right now, there is only one player who will be a freshman next year who has gotten any buzz about being NBA ready, compared to the seven freshmen in front of Grant currently in that mock draft. While other players will certainly develop and improve, like Grant is expected to do, there will simply be less competition at the top of the draft. Should he fail to improve his jump shot next season, where is he? Well, he’s still higher, as he should add another ten to fifteen pounds of muscle and be more able to handle the power forward spot at the next level, which his lack of improved shooting would place him instead of being the ‘tweener he currently is.
WC: I’m just not sold on him improving his stock if his jumper doesn’t improve. If it doesn’t, like I said before, he’s just a rising senior that has a limit to his potential. Grant already possesses a lot of things you can’t teach. Freakish athleticism? Check the box. Good rebounding instincts? Check the box. A great basketball pedigree? Check the box. Nothing about that is going to change with him staying an extra year.