OKC Thunder: Terrance Ferguson and Jerami Grant’s defensive grit lives on

OKC Thunder Terrance Ferguson (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
OKC Thunder Terrance Ferguson (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Terrance Ferguson and former OKC Thunder forward Jerami Grant were like peanut butter and jelly. Now on different teams, they continue to flourish in what they do best.

There was a moment after the heartbreak when Damian Lillard banked the winning shot that would eliminate the OKC Thunder and is still vivid in my mind. It was an image I will never forget.

Confetti raining in the Moda Center, wild celebrations and the Thunder looking depleted in the corner. Two of the younger players on the team, Terrance Ferguson and Jerami Grant with bowed heads were comforted by Steven Adams. Even if you’re not a Thunder fan, just looking at how much it hurt for them made you hurt too.

As they remained silent, everything around them couldn’t be any louder. Little did those two know, they would not be on the same side the following year, but their heart and passion for defense would live on.

Ferguson and Grant seemed like the closest pair on the Thunder last season and this year, with Grant now on the Denver Nuggets, their teams are almost identical in defensive rating.

While the OKC Thunder are blossoming when their shots are falling, at times it is their defense that has kept them in games.

OKC is 12th in the league for defensive rating, allowing 107.0 points per game. This is closely followed by the Nuggets who are 13th and concede 107.1 points.

A part of this is due to Ferg and Grant who amazed fans with their natural athleticism, shot blocking finesse and evolving 3-point jumper. It is this defensive grit that endures despite the duo being on different teams.

Throughout his three seasons with the OKC Thunder, Grant grew into a dominant player and along with Ferguson, they became OKC’s defensive specialists. He also achieved career-high numbers averaging 13.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Currently, he has slowly earned his way to a starting spot in Denver.

Ferguson and Grant both had quiet starts to the season but have put up some tenacious matches that demonstrate why they were able to do so well on court together.

Two of those performances were against former NBA MVP James Harden and reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.

Ferguson and Grant showing they are big time defenders:

Last week in Russell Westbrook‘s homecoming game, Ferguson absolutely dominated, forcing Harden to miss shots and easy floaters that he would usually make.

It showed many around the league the discipline the 21-year old has and called upon the credit he deserves. Some people on social media raved about how it was the best individual defensive effort they had ever seen played on Harden.

Ferguson held Harden to his lowest scoring game of the season with 17 points on 29 percent shooting from the floor. This was shocking considering Harden is averaging 37.7 points on 45.3 percent per night.

But it proved the significance the Oklahoma native has when he is all in. There are times when Ferguson isn’t playing like who he really is, and what we know he is capable of. Also sometimes his efforts don’t show on the offensive end.

We’ve seen that this season, but what’s great is that Ferguson can rise from those slumps and is a reliable player. He may not necessarily get all the shots but he sacrifices to give his teammates those opportunities.

Chris Paul applauded Ferg for this saying that he is the “unsung hero for our team that does all the dirty work.”

Just like Ferguson had a blockbuster game against the Rockets, Grant also recently garnered attention after his spectacular coverage of Leonard in his team’s ten-point win over the Clippers last Sunday.

Grant registered 11 points, two rebounds, two assists, and a steal. In addition, he had a pair of blocks against Leonard, causing him to make two of nine attempts from the field when he was guarding him.

He used his agility and long arms to put pressure on Leonard making him take contested shots. The Clipper did end up with 30 points but there’s no doubt it was a tough night for him getting to the basket.

It was like a mirror image watching Grant guard the NBA champion. Wherever he was on the court, you would find Grant hounding him in the right position, reflecting his every move.

This is the progression of what Grant had started with Ferguson as members of the OKC Thunder. That aggressive and dynamic play that contributed immensely when the Thunder were the best defensive team in the league last year, with length all across the floor.

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Even though that has changed slightly, it is clear that their teams do better when they are both shining on defense.

They say that defense is the key to winning and sometimes in the world of basketball it can be seen as the unfavored thing to do. Especially in this new age of position-less ball and living and dying by the 3-point line.

But Ferguson and Grant have shown that it’s more than just points to them. They are willing to help in other areas even if it means guarding some of the best in the world, and you don’t get many players like that.

When you’re watching one of them play, you can’t help but think of the other right there with them. And yes they still do have some development to go but their defensive energy is a sign that other parts of their game will be able to flow.

They share the same mindset, carrying on their defensive flair with Grant in a new environment and Ferguson in the same environment but around new teammates.

It’s a reflection of what great friends do, protecting and helping each other no matter what just like they would do on the court.

Next. Terrance Ferguson is the new Thunder defensive master. dark

That is what Ferguson and Grant established and in essence, that is what defending truly is.