After watching Kawhi Leonard help lead the San Antonio Spurs to another Championship and win a Finals MVP in the process, some fans might see a lot of similarities between Leonard and Syracuse small forward, Jerami Grant.

Like Leonard when he was in college, Grant is a skinny, 6’8 defensive-minded forward with an enormous 7’3 wingspan and excellent athletic ability. And like Leonard at San Diego State, Grant has trouble scoring outside the paint.

There certainly is a lot to like about Grant. With his physical tools and high motor, he could become an intimidating defensive player and impact player on the boards. He also has a nice touch around the basket, gets to the basket quickly and isn’t afraid of contact.

Grant made great strides from his freshman season, doubling his minutes per game and becoming one of the main cogs in one of the best teams in college basketball, this past season. He can be electrifying when he attacks the rim, both with the ball and going after offensive rebounds.

While Grant may resemble the reigning Finals MVP in many ways, fans should be careful not to expect too much from him. While Leonard definitely needed to work on his shot, coming into the NBA, all that was required was retooling what was already there, and by the time he worked out for NBA teams, there already was a lot of improvement.

For Grant, his shot requires a completely overhaul. Many players have an awkward shooting form that you wouldn’t think would work, but does (like Shawn Mario). Grant has an awkward form and it doesn’t work. Basically his shot is broken and it could be years before he can become a decent outside threat, if at all.


A better comparison for Grant might be Luc Mbah a Moute, who has similar size and athletic ability, as well as an inability to hit a shot from beyond 15 feet, something that has limited his effectiveness at times, especially in the playoffs. Mbah a Moute has more strength, but Grant has more explosiveness around the basket.

And while Grant does have great defensive potential, he’s got a few things working against him here, as well. Like all players at Syracuse, who play zone defense almost exclusively, Grant has not been able to shown much of an ability to play one on one defense, although he does have good lateral mobility and an ability to stay in front of most wing players.

More troubling though, is his lack of blocks, and it’s not because he’s the type of player that draws charges instead. For an athletic player with a 7’3 wingspan, he should be getting more than 0.8 a game, even with Syracuse’s zone. What might be the problem is while Grant is a willing defender, he hasn’t always shown the best instincts.

Grant doesn’t seem to have a very high basketball IQ, which can be overcome more in a zone, but when asked to play man-to-man in the NBA, knowing where to be, when to help and when not to help is extremely important. Especially for a player who will likely be making a living with his defense.

The Raptors definitely need help defensively at small forward, but if the playoffs have taught us anything (again) it’s the importance of having players, especially wing players, who can space the floor, something Grant simply won’t be able to do. And he’s got almost no ball handling abilities and will get completely manhandled until he can put on about 20 lbs of muscle.

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  • Paul Stevens

    Whoever the Raps get, I want to see high basketball IQ. If you don’t have it coming into the league, I don’t think it comes very quickly. I don’t think they want to draft someon at 20 and then wait 3-4 years for him to get “smart.”

    • Matteemo

      Kyle Anderson is probably your guy.

      • Part of me loves what Kyle Anderson brings to the table. The court-vision and size he has, paired with a scoring PG like Lowry might just be Casey’s wet dream having 2 playmakers on the floor.

        Then I watch YouTube videos of Anderson and every. move. he. makes. looks.. like.. it’s.. in.. slow… motion…

        • Alex Vostrikov

          add one more reading session to j. McGee, and you have a beast. but with no brain/head, you have nothing.

  • Slap Dog Hoops

    We have enough young players. What we need are veterans with playoff experience who can bring us to the next level

    • Dr. Scooby

      to an extent I agree.
      BUT there is a problem with that plan:
      1) If the team keeps Vasquez, PPat and Lowry, then they have no cap space for anybody else this season;
      2) Casey WILL play veterans over Ross, Valunciunus and any rookies we draft – potentially stunting their growth.

      To my mind the Raps need to demonstrate improvement next season with this particular group before they contemplate slotting in veterans for a serious playoff push.

      • Matteemo

        I agree with you, next year is our year to make a big splash in the FA market, we have a young core who will have another year under our belt and the cap space to sign a player(s) who can have a significant impact. Anyone we sign this season just hurts our flexibility in terms of making a major move next year.

  • bballi bballi paradise

    He seems to be just an athlete who doesn’t quite have the skills nor the IQ. Not a perfect comparison (first step is quite different for example) but Joey Graham comes to mind. He didn’t exactly light the association on fire….

    That and the author hit the nail on the head with his reference to the need for spacing from wings. This guy won’t give us anything in that regard.

    I’m waiting for Early’s write up.

  • DC

    Can TRoss become Kawhi Leonard?

    • sleepz


      Raps don’t have anyone as good on their roster as K. Leonard, period.

      • sleepz

        And I don’t see T.Ross developing into that type of player either. Different skill sets, and Kawhi can actually create for himself a little bit.

        • Dr. Scooby

          There are times (when Ross is in rhythm) that he looks untouchable on offense, but yeah, Ross is not Leonard nor will he be.

      • Matteemo

        If you could do the 2011 draft all over again knowing what we know now, would you choose him over JV? Just curious…

        • Abused Raptors Fan

          The problem with that kind of thinking is the assumption that Leonard would have taken the same developmental path with the Raptors as he did with the Spurs… For one, the Spurs shooting coach is probably the best in the NBA, which likely influenced the Spurs desire to trade for him in the first place. What’s more, the Spurs have the veteran leadership and coaching to mentor a player like Leonard, as well as to challenge him to maximize his potential without the pressure of immediately developing into the team’s #1 option.

          • Matteemo

            This is exactly what I was thinking when I posed the question, I believe Jonas was the better pick for us at #5, and still believe his ceiling could be higher than Leonard’s. Although I am surprised Kawhi fell all the way to 15th.

  • Rap fan 2

    Unfortunately, picking a player at 20 will most likely involve development time. Of course we could get lucky and get someone totally underrated and below everyone’s radar. Some things that come prepackaged with Grant that will translate on the defensive end are athleticism, length, lateral quickness, motor. He’ll need to put on more strength to guard a Lebron James effectively. With shooting he’s just needs to be fully committed to improving himself everyday. Does he have the tenacity to grind and persevere? Nothing is handed to you on a silver platter. You need to work for it with a passion.

  • Andre

    Can he really play the 3 in the nba without a shot? ..i am not sold

    • leftovercrack

      If Grant falls to 37, he might be worth taking a flyer on. If they can rebuild his shot and add 15 pounds to his frame, he has Kawhi Leonard like athleticism and defensive potential. But it would be too big a risk for the No. 20 pick

  • I’d rather someone else took a flyer on Grant, who might be a tweener without the scoring instincts of a guy like Thad Young. Right now he’s more Harvey than Horace (he is his father’s son after all). I normally almost always expect players’ sons to have good IQ, but I guess it also depends on the caliber of player their father was.

  • Matteemo

    If we’re going to choose a player with hopes of him being a defensive stopper at the wing position I like KJ McDaniels more so than Jerami Grant

    • Abused Raptors Fan

      Personally, I’m super high on Inglis, but he’d be a reach at 20 and probably won’t be there at 37. Regardless, I think the Raptors would be better off taking Capella or Porzingis at 20 and drafting a SF at 37 as one of Early, McDaniels, Robinson, Grant, or Inglis should be available at 37 based on most mock drafts.

      • That’s pretty much what I’m hoping for… that one of the SFs (hoping it’s Early but I highly doubt it) drops to 37 would be awesome. Then grab Bachynski with the other 2nd round pick.

        Porzingis pulled out of the draft apparently. I wouldn’t mind going PG if Levine or Ennis fall to us either.

        • Trivial

          I’d take Early at 20, because i wouldn’t expect him to be available at 37。 Dude, just plays the game hard and cares about winning. If a player understands work ethic and what it takes to win, that’s 50% of the battle. I would draft papapetrou, with one of our 2nd round picks and let him play out his contract with Olympiacos and BPA with the other pick. And if Ejim, Powell, Bhullar are not drafted, I’d give them Summer Camp invites.

      • Matteemo

        I do not want any part of Porzingis at 20