OKC Thunder Lightning Report: Jerami Grant’s breakout season

OKC Thunder, Jerami Grant (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
OKC Thunder, Jerami Grant (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
OKC Thunder forward Jerami Grant (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The good

As analysts, we have a tendency to exaggerate just how versatile some guys can be on defense, especially when they’re young, but in this case, it seems totally fair to say that Grant is one of the few players who can reliably defend all five positions on the court.

The advanced stats paint a slightly different picture – the defensive rating was lower with him off the floor and his box plus-minus and player-impact plus-minus scores were just meh – but if you watched him this year, you know just how special he was.

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Against guards:

There were times this year where it almost seemed like a scientist built Grant in a lab to be the perfect defender for the modern era. Despite adding a noticeable bit of muscle and weight over the offseason, Grant didn’t appear to lose any of the quickness on the perimeter that made him such an intriguing defender from the jump. In fact, he seemed to have taken a real leap out on the perimeter this season.

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One of his biggest issues in the past was that he was still a little green and his technique on the perimeter was rough. Aside from some of the unnecessary fouling, his footwork defending drives was sloppy and his anticipation wasn’t where it needed to be.

As a result, he was a fairly easy target in the pick-and-roll where guards could hit him with a few quick moves and either get a shot they wanted or draw a foul. He had the talent to be better, but he needed a tad more fine-tuning.

Whether merely a product of experience or watching more film, something clicked for him this season and he started to become a real force out there. Not only were his footwork and stance way tighter than they ever had been before, but his balance also helped him hang with even the quicker guards in the league.

The most recognizable manifestation of his growth on the perimeter this season was the play in the series against the Portland Trail Blazers when he got stranded on an island with CJ McCollum and eventually forced one of the toughest shot-makers in the league into a bad floater that he promptly erased from the ether:

But the more impactful play were ones like this where he sprints to close-out on Donovan Mitchell, recovers nicely on the drive, and eventually gets the block: