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
Nikola Jokic, erami Grant OKC Thunder (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

Against everyone else

Grant’s perimeter defense was cool and all, but his rim-protection and help-defense were way more important to the OKC Thunder defense – and arguably more entertaining. Because they always lead the league in freakishly athletic wings per capita, OKC has always run one of the more aggressive schemes in the league.

Unlike most other teams in the NBA, they opt for a swarming style of defense that routinely sends two or three help defenders to contain penetration into the paint:

When it works well, it’s a stone wall. We’re in the NBA, though, and there are inevitably going to be holes in such an aggressive scheme. Rotations are going to be blown, quick passes are going to be made, and there will always be a little bit of leakage.

So to make such a risky defense work on a nightly basis, teams that swarm have to trust that their help defense is going to be in the right position to recover when things go sideways. For a lot of this season, the Thunder relied on Grant to be the guy to help when the defense collapsed and he almost always came through.

Related Story. Jerami Grant could be the NBA’s Most Improved Player. light

Because he was usually guarding the offense’s fourth or fifth option, he could roam around the paint and always stay in position to blow up offensive actions. Sometimes it was in the pick-and-roll where he often hovered along the baseline and waited for the big to get the ball before coming up to contest:

Sometimes it was off drives where he broke up all kinds of action going to the rim:

Always being in the right position is, of course, a plus but to really make an impact, you need to have the kind of athleticism and instincts that Grant flashed every single game. He became such a dynamic rim-protector that he could effectively contest anything around the basket as long as he was in roughly the right spot.

Just watch how he slides over to Rudy Gobert after he catches it in the paint, waits for the gather to avoid fouling, and then stuffs him:

Without him as the primary help defender for such long stretches of the game, the OKC Thunder probably wouldn’t have been able to run this system nearly as effectively as they did if they could even run it at all.