Jerami Grant poised to become OKC Thunder x-factor this season

Jerami Grant, OKC Thunder (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jerami Grant, OKC Thunder (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
The Miami Heat’s Josh Richardson drives to the basket against the OKC Thunder’s Jerami Grant, drawing a foul, during the second quarter at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2016. The OKC Thunder won, 106-94. (David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald/TNS via Getty Images) /

Entering his third season with the OKC Thunder forward Jerami Grant has finally carved out a role and stands poised to become the team’s x factor.

Coming into the OKC Thunder 2017-18 season, Jerami Grant’s role was unknown. He didn’t carve out a concrete role in the rotation in his first season in Oklahoma City and the jury was still out on how to best utilize him.

Year one in OKC left questions:

Grant averaged 5.5 points per game (PPG), 2.6 rebounds per game (RPG), 0.6 assists per game (APG), 0.4 steals per game (SPG), and 1.0 blocks per game (BPG) while receiving 19.1 minutes per game (MPG) over the course of the 2016-17 season.

He shot 46.3 percent from the field and had a true shooting percentage of 55.6, which was brought down by his sub-par free throw shooting. In spite of what those numbers may suggest, he was as advertised – a raw and supremely athletic forward who had the potential of being a two-way threat and a starting caliber player in the future. We knew that much.

legend: points per game (PPG), rebounds per game (RPG), assists per game (APG), steals per game (SPG), blocks per game (BPG), minutes per game (MPG)

Year two presented opportunity:

In the matter of a year, Jerami Grant went from being an afterthought to being one of the Thunder’s most valuable players. Thanks to his athleticism and length, Grant gave the Thunder a lot of flexibility in terms of the lineups they used. Albeit he was mostly used as a power forward, he was occasionally used as a center in small ball lineups.

His fluidity meant he was able to switch seamlessly from perimeter duties to protecting the paint. Grant’s ability to guard positions 1-5 played a huge part in him having the third-best defensive rating among players who averaged at least 20 minutes per game in the playoffs (97.7). He was also the team’s best rim protector, averaging 1.0 BPG. Players shot 52.8 percent from 0-6 feet when guarded by Jerami Grant, which is 9.6 percentage points worse than what they usually shoot from that range.

Jerami Grant also had a career year in terms of rebounding, with a 5.6 offensive rebounding percentage and a 16.3 defensive rebounding percentage.

All in all, he averaged 8.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 0.7 APG, 0.4 SPG, and 1.0 BPG while playing 20.1 MPG. That improvement cannot be simply explained by an increase in minutes because he only got an extra minute per game.

Grant has improved his offensive game while also not sacrificing any other aspects of his game.