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Film Friday: Jerami Grant is the secret weapon

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Milwaukee Bucks v Denver Nuggets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

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.

The Denver Nuggets and the NBA are targeting July 30th for their grand return. The plan’s are coming together for them to enter a “bubble” at Disney World in Orlando, FL. Teams will begin getting back to practice over the next weeks as they prepare for their brief 8-game regular season before heading into the playoffs. Stars are going to get the spotlight, and Denver is no exception with skinny Nikola Jokic dominating Denver media over the last few weeks. However, it’s x-factors and role players that really help you win titles.

Andre Iguodala was named the NBA finals MVP 2015 because of his ability to be a force on both ends of the floor. The year prior to that Kawhi Leonard won it for the exact same reason. Neither of those guys were the star of their team, but they played their role better than anyone else on the floor. Jerami Grant has the potential to be that guy for the Nuggets this year.

He’s shown the ability to go on scoring runs when the rest of the team is cold just like Iguodala did for the Golden State Warriors when he shot five percent better from 3-point range than he did during the regular season. He’s shown the defensive talent to match up with an opponent’s best player when needed like Kawhi did. This is how he can help steer this team towards greater heights in the playoffs in two months.

Shooting Opens Things Up

Grant was brought in to give them more athletic length on the outside along with a bump in shooting in the frontcourt. If it weren’t for the supreme bump we’ve seen from Paul Millsap, who is shooting nearly 10 percent above his career 3-point average, Grant would be second among rotation players behind only Michael Porter Jr., who is playing 12 minutes less per game than Grant.

Take a quick look at this clip. Grant is out on the 3-point line being guarded by Matthew Dellavedova. Mason Plumlee has his hands full trying to get the ball under control with the clock winding down. Rather than going for a steal, Dellavedova stays tight to Grant to prevent a 3-point shot, and Michael Porter Jr. cashes in because of the space he’s afforded. Grant went just 1-of-5 from downtown in that game, but he still is more than enough of a threat to open up the floor for the guys around him.

In last year’s playoffs, of the 8 rotation players that attempted more than two 3-point shots in the playoffs, only three players shot over 36 percent. Of those three, Malik Beasley is gone while Jokic and Torrey Craig have regressed mightily from their great marks. Grant’s ability to shoot would give this team another verified weapon on the outside while additionally opening the rest of the floor for those around him.

Driving Leads to Results

I said that Grant’s shooting opens the floor up for the guys he’s sharing it with. In addition to that, it also opens up the floor for Grant himself. Defenders are responsible for staying out on Grant to prevent him from getting an open look from 3-point range. As long as the threat of him knocking down that shot exists, it consistently gives him the opportunity to use one of his best traits, his athleticism.

Grant’s quickness is deceptive for his size, and he is able to elevate above the crowd to snag rebounds or alley-oop dunks that the defense can’t quite reach. When you attack the basket, it puts the defense on its’ heels, and that’s when you’re able to get easier shots and draw fouls.

The best place that Grant’s athleticism shows itself the most is in transition. His speed takes advantage of Jokic’s passing ability, and that’s where they can get free points. This play wasn’t even a full run out, but the defense didn’t have the athleticism or awareness to get between Grant and the rim. That led to an easy bucket for him, and that can help build momentum for your team on a run.

Defense Wins Championships

Grant was brought in to give Denver that big wing that can knock down 3-point shots while also playing solid defense. We’ve already seen that he can do the first one, and you can see him here sticking to James Harden, without fouling, which is arguably one of the most difficult tasks in the NBA for a defender right now. With the Houston Rockets as a possible playoff matchup for Denver, that gives them another great player to try and slow him down.

Denver’s struggle this season have been with defending big wings. That’s what Grant was brought in to slow down. He wasn’t brought in to be some crazy scorer or to match up with centers on a switch like Draymond Green. He was traded for because he can match up with guys like LeBron James, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. When the playoffs are on the line in a big situation, they’ll have the ball in their hands, and he’ll be the one in front of them.

Speaking of Leonard, watch Grant keep him in front of him the whole way. Kawhi has seen his scoring punch put under a crazy microscope over the last couple of years. His patience and smooth work make him one of the toughest covers in the NBA. Grant doesn’t let the star power faze him, and he maintains good position the whole way. He won’t be alone when the playoffs come, but he’s not going to be lost in the moment if he is.

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.