Syracuse forward Jerami Grant never really played small forward, the position he’ll evolve to in the NBA. He doesn’t yet have the shooting and ball-handling skills expected of that position.
But he has something Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford values more all the time.
“He has true size,” Clifford said, referring to the 6-foot-8 Grant’s remarkably long wingspan of 7 feet, 3 inches.
Grant and five others worked out for the Hornets on Monday morning. The Hornets have the ninth, 24th and 45th picks in the June 26 draft, and Grant could be a viable option at No. 24 if he’s still available.
Grant is in demand for these predraft auditions. Monday was his ninth workout with more than a week left until draft night. It makes sense that teams would want to check him out because his length and athleticism are so intriguing.
“For a lot of guys in college, the difference from the college 3-point line to the NBA 3-point line is an adjustment,” Clifford said. “But he has the quickness, size and agility” to have an impact.
Grant is the son of Harvey Grant and the nephew of Horace Grant. Harvey lasted in the NBA 11 seasons and Horace 17 because both were long and athletic in a manner NBA teams value.
Throughout the playoffs, Clifford noticed the teams that kept advancing tended to be the teams with the most quality size. He’s never been a fan of playing small, but now more than ever.
“(NBA champion) San Antonio, if you look at their adjustment over last the few years, they knew they needed more size along the perimeter. So they went out and got (Finals MVP) Kawhi Leonard,” Clifford said. “At the end of the day, it’s still a matchup league. College is more a five-man game. In the (NBA) playoffs, you’re going to go at matchups” of size and speed.
That’s why Clifford thinks Grant has potential, enough so that a team could wait a year or two for him to refine his skills.
Grant understands it won’t be easy morphing from what he was at Syracuse to what he’ll need to be in the NBA.
“My shot is coming along and my ball-handling is almost there,” said Grant, who took only 20 3-pointers in his two seasons at Syracuse, making six. He averaged 12.1 points and 6.8 rebounds as a sophomore this past season.
“At Syracuse I didn’t play much small forward. I mostly did the dirty work: Offensive glass, defensive glass. Things the (power forward) does,” Grant said. “But just because I didn’t do it doesn’t mean I can’t do it.”
It helps, Grant said, that he grew up around the NBA and has a father and an uncle he can use as constant resources.
“Just being around the game from a young age helps me understand it better – what I can do, what my teammates can do,” Grant said. “I talk to (Harvey or Horace) every day or every other day about what to do to get better.”
Next workout: Duke’s Rodney Hood will audition for the Hornets on Tuesday and former North Carolina guard P.J. Hairston will come back for a second workout. Others scheduled: James Bell, Villanova; Jordan Clarkson, Missouri; Josh Huestis, Stanford and Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette.