As Notre Dame's season came to an end last Saturday night, so did Jerian Grant's career with the Irish. Watching Grant was joyful, especially during the 2014 - 2015 season. Now, his basketball life is focused on his future and June's NBA Draft. While draft order has not been set and many teams are still fighting for their playoff lives, it's not too early to think about Grant's prospects at the next level. Where could Grant fit in next year's NBA, and wishfully where do you want to see Grant play next year?
It is a rarity in sports when your favorite college player moves on to your favorite pro team. Most of the time, it's wonderful. You get to watch the player develop and hopefully flourish at the next level. You see effort and skill slowly transform into more wins for the team. Whatever connection you have or believe you have with the athlete seemingly grows stronger as you continue to cheer for them professionally. As much as I have enjoyed watching Grant play at Notre Dame, I hope he does not end up on the team I root for - the New York Knicks.
This is not to say that I do not believe Grant could be successful there. Given his stellar year, I believe he can contribute in the NBA wherever he ends up. However, the Knicks have a recent history of not developing promising rookies after solid campaigns. Landry Fields, Iman Shumpert, and Tim Hardaway Jr. all regressed offensively between their rookie and sophomore years. The sample size is small, of course, and all players encounter different circumstances, but I'd rather see Grant go someplace he can ease into a team rather than carry the burden of rebuilding.
Depending on where you look, Grant is projected to be drafted either late in the lottery or early among the playoff teams. In an ideal world, I would like to see Grant fall to the Houston Rockets. Patrick Beverley's season-ending surgery combined with impending free agency has cast a murky future for that position in Houston. Adding a guard of Grant's caliber could help ease the transition from Beverley or even lessen Beverley's workload if he returns. The combination of James Harden and Jerian Grant is immensely intriguing for both the Rockets' offense and Grant's future. In an ideal world, Grant's talents are taken to Houston, but I just hope he does not end up at Madison Square Garden. At least not next season.
We've already established I think Jerian Grant is the textbook moneyball pro. He's "Skinny Harden" right now, and his numbers back it up. He was coached in college to knock down threes, create threes, and get fouled at the rim. He's got family pedigree, past and present, that assure a GM and coaching staff he's going to be prepared, focused, and his buddy-movie-like work with Pat leading this team only adds to his "intangible" list.
Both SBNation (in haiku) and BleacherReport have Jerian going 9th to the Indiana Pacers. This post form SBNation's SLC Dunk tracks across a number of draft projections and rate him as the 16th most valued player in those drafts. I think that's about right, and he'll hear his name called in that 9th-16th slot.
If you look at the teams drafting in that range, you need to look for those that value spacing the floor and are known to be moneyball managers. Atlanta and Houston jump off the page in that respect, but both feel pretty loaded at those positions and will be shopping for size this spring. Phoenix is also interesting because they like the idea of throwing multiple guys on the floor who blend traditional "1" and "2" skills, like Jerian. If Jerian slips past Larry Bird at 9 as they await the return of Paul George, Boston lurks in that same range and Brad Stevens is a known fan of analytics. Jerian's ORTG and assist numbers could appeal to the former Butler coach. Of course, Philly will be in that range, giving Jerian a chance to reunite with his brother. Those practice match-ups could be legendary.
As a Milwaukee native, and Bucks fan growing up, I'm torn about my most likely destination. The new ownership in Milwaukee seems committed to building a winner, but from a media (and weather) destination, the Bucks are a rough assignment. Unless you're shelling out for an NBA season pass, you're not going to get to see him often. However, the Bucks have a unique nucleus of young talent and Grant could make a very interesting PnR partner with strong, athletic guys like Parker and the Greek Freak finishing at the rim. If they can find another stretch big like Ilyosova to spread the floor, they could create a very interesting open-floor offensive experiment with Parker able to take his own man off the bounce, and Antetokounmpo flying around off of Grant sideline PnR. If MCW is handling the ball, Jerian provides great spacing and another tough match-up if you don't have a 2 man who can stay in front of his guy. He could attack off the bounce against a moving defense, or get in a secondary PnR with Antetokounmpo. Jason Kidd makes an interesting mentor for Jerian, as they're both very high basketball-IQ guys, although Jerian enters the league with a lot more range on his J than Kidd dreamed of.
I'm just thrilled to have an ND guy in this position. It will be a great day for a great guy from a great family. Congratulations Jerian.