As part of Denver Stiffs’ transition from Denver Nuggets postseason coverage to offseason coverage, staff members will be conducting End of Season Reviews for all 17 players on the roster. There will continue to be news, NBA draft, free agency, and trade articles, but over the next three weeks, an accompanying End of Season review (or two) will also post every week day.
Today’s review: Jerami Grant
When the Nuggets traded their 2020 first round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Jerami Grant, the Nuggets cashed in to add what they felt was the best option at forward in the league to play alongside Nikola Jokic. Grant’s ability to defend guards, forwards, and the occasional big man, space the court, and be a finisher at the rim makes him an ideal piece for the Nuggets future.
Grant performed about as well as anyone could have predicted this season, and if there is a path for him to return back to the Nuggets next season by him signing a new contract in the offseason, they should absolutely bring him back. He’s due for a pay raise, but let’s be clear on one thing — the Nuggets need to bring him back. Pay the man his money, and bring him back to Denver.
2019-20 Regular Season and Playoff Stats
The Nuggets had a competition for the starting small forward position in training camp, and Will Barton was able to hold on to his spot in that lineup to start the season. Grant fit in more easily as the backup to Paul Millsap, a super sub that was able to come in off the bench and provide a spark. Millsap had earned his spot as a starter, and Grant needed game reps to get comfortable playing with Nikola Jokic.
While Grant got his feet set in Denver, he started to show fans what he was going to provide to the team. He’s got incredible bounce as a finisher, capable of flying high above the rim to throw down some big dunks. He was able to dial in his 3-point shot as the season progressed, and was able to knock in five 3-pointers against the Nets and Trail Blazers in December.
Grant filled in at started in January once Millsap went down with a variety of injuries, and the increase in minutes helped boost his per game scoring. He stepped up his play against teams like the Bucks in February.
Grant really excelled for the Nuggets once the playoffs started. His ability to guard elite scorers was invaluable to them against the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers. While the rest of the league was able to dial in their 3-point shot in the Orlando arenas, Grant wasn’t quite able to lock in from distance, although my theory is that this can probably be more traced to the amount of energy he had to burn on defense leading him to being a little off on offense.
Things didn’t work out well for him against the Los Angeles Lakers, but I’m not sure if any Nuggets player would have been able to overcome the challenge of guarding LeBron James, taking a breather, then checking back in the game to guard Anthony Davis. That he was the guy the coaching staff tabbed to do both of those things says a lot more about his game than a shooting percentage on a box score.
Season Grade: A
I expect Grant to be a starter for several years to come in Denver. He showed that he’s capable of stepping in for Paul Millsap, and should be a great fit next to Michael Porter Jr. and Nikola Jokic.
Grant is a great on-ball defender that can score by driving to the rim, shooting from behind the 3-point line, and dunking — lots and lots of dunks. He does everything the coaching staff asks of him.
I fully expect to hear “But what about his rebounds!” and my answer is that I do not care at all about his rebounds. There are players that are asked to different things for a team, and I do not need Jerami Grant to be out there averaging eight rebounds per game. I want him to be a transition defender, and someone that is forcing the offense to miss the shot, not grab the ball after it clangs off the rim. Let his teammates get his back while he’s busy defending the top scorer on the other team.
It was early in the season, but it’s probably his putback dunk against the Suns. You watch his dunks and let us know what you think.
What’s Next for Jerami Grant
According to Mike Singer, Grant will not be exercising his player option, and will enter free agency this offseason. There will be plenty of teams that would like to sign Grant, but won’t be able to afford him after the season he had. The teams that do have cap space are terrible, and if Grant wants to perform in the playoffs, his best chance is with Denver. The Nuggets can also use his Bird Rights to sign him to a large contract and go over the salary cap.
The Nuggets present the best fit, the best opportunity, and best compensation package for Grant. The only way I see him leaving is if a team like the Atlanta Hawks throw $100 million over four years his way. I don’t think the Nuggets can afford a deal like that, and it could be enough for him to cash in on the success he’s had lately.
For Grant, if he returns to Denver, expect him to slot into the starting lineup and continue to be an important piece of the team. He’s a great player, and I love seeing him in Denver.