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Film Friday: Jerami Grant must return

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NBA: Playoffs-Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re not familiar with Film Fridays, each Friday, I’ll be looking at some recent Denver Nuggets’ games, lineups or something else from a film aspect to try and bring you a piece of content that you’re not getting somewhere else. Feel free to give any feedback positive or negative in the comments or find me on Twitter.

Jerami Grant was the Denver Nuggets’ lone major acquisition during the 2019 offseason, and it was unclear how much he would contribute off the bench with the starting five solidified and the role that he had played on his previous rosters. The hope was that he could bring a 3-and-D presence on the wing while modernizing the Nuggets with a stretch-four presence.

By the time the playoffs had kicked off, and even before that, it was clear that he was their best option at the power forward spot. Now, with him electing to opt out of his player option for the 2020-21, he’s expected to test the free-agent market, although it’s been said that both parties want a long-term reunion. Some free agents you can let work, and others you want to negotiate with. Grant is one that needs to be brought back at all costs.

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Season Games Games Started Minutes Points Rebounds Assists FG% 3P% TS%
Season Games Games Started Minutes Points Rebounds Assists FG% 3P% TS%
Regular Season 58 24 26.6 12.0 3.5 1.2 47.8 38.9 59.1
Playoffs 19 16 34.4 11.6 3.3 1.3 40.6 32.6 55.6

Paul Millsap’s contract has come to an end, and, unless he takes a healthy discount, it’s difficult to see him returning to Denver. They’ll have to use all of their available money to bring back Grant, and, in the modern NBA, they have no other choice with how their roster is currently constructed.

Offense

Grant isn’t going to back you down in the post. He’s not going to do anything overly fancy on that end of the floor. He does bring a high level of intelligence that is tough to coach out of a player though. On this fast break, he has a couple of options. The modern NBA approach has been to run to the 3-point line or cut right to the basket. He eskews both of those, and he gets wide open in the dunkers spot. Upon receiving the entry pass, it’s a simple dribble and dunk. Millsap’s intelligence is arguably his biggest strength at this point, and Grant is already showing flashes of being able to replace that.

It’s plays like this that show his value over someone like Millsap at their respective stages of their careers. Grant catches this ball a couple of feet behind the 3-point line. When the defender closes out on him, he blows past him en route to an easy layup. Teams have to respect his outside shot, and that lets him use his athleticism against slower power forwards. A player with his inside-and-outside versatility is going to be in high demand.

You’d be hard-pressed to see Millsap making this even play 10 years ago, and he definitely can’t do it now. With Grant’s length and athleticism, Nikola Jokic just has to put the ball up near the rim, and Grant can go get it. The defense covers this play well, but the offense is just better here. That’s what you’re paying for to bring him back. He’s making a play that the majority of guys playing power forward aren’t going to make.

This is the area of Grant’s game that could truly elevate this roster to another level. Millsap dramatically improved his 3-point percentage last year, but it took him forever to get his shot off. Grant has LeBron James in tight on him, but his quickness forces James to honor the drive. He gets the little bit of space that he needs and knocks down the shot. Plays like this can bail out your offense when other guys can’t get the ball up in time.

Defense

You’re supposed to be our sixth man off the bench? To reward you for playing that role, we’re going to match you up with the guy that’s en route to his second MVP in a row. Grant took on those challenges all year during the regular season, and that even intensified in the playoffs. During the Western Conference Finals, he was matching minutes with LeBron, and he was guarding him at all times. Michael Malone doesn’t do that lightly. Grant earned it with plays like this double block on Giannis Antetokounmpo.

He has the ability to slide laterally to stay in front of his opponents. With the clock running down, Kawhi Leonard gets a head of steam as he’s coming down the court, and he’s bowling towards the basket. Grant takes a slide step and slaps the shot off the board. Those plays set the tone for your team, and they tell everyone in the building what you’re all about.

Grant isn’t going to back you down in the post, but he’s not going to let you back him down either. Leonard has been one of the best wing players in the post over the last two years, and Grant stays glued to him constantly. When Leonard goes to the spin to go for the layup, Grant just stuffs him again. That frustration for Leonard continues to build while Grant further endears himself to the fans.

Some in NBA circles have called Leonard the most dominant 1-on-1 scorer in basketball. On this play, Grant shuts him down with ease on multiple moves. This is what he was brought in for. Denver traded a first-round pick for him, and he became a key starter for them into the playoff run. He’ll only improve next year as the full-time starter with more experience against these elite scorers.

Grant is the type of situation that Denver should have no limit on what they’re willing to spend to bring him back. With the move of trading away Malik Beasley and Juan Hernangomez, they knew that they had to free up money for their upcoming free agents. Grant is the top option for them and on the market. Bring him back next year, and enjoy the rewards.

For those of you that are still here, remember to leave your feedback in the comments or over on my Twitter, and have a fantastic film-filled Friday.