Player: Jerian Grant.
School: Notre Dame.
Position: Point Guard/Shooting Guard
Expected Draft Position: Mid-late first round
"NBA ready" seems to be one those threadbare phrases we tend to throw around prematurely. "Player X played in a pro-style offense and can make reads out of the pick and roll, so he's ready to contribute from Day 1." But how do you know he's ready to contribute without knowing what system he's going to or the type of players he'll be surrounded with?
I made that mistake with labeling Otto Porter as such two years ago. He was the prototypical Georgetown player. He excelled at shredding zone defenses to the point where Jim Boeheim was calling him "the best all-around player I've seen in this league." But in retrospect, how much of those skills actually transferred over to the NBA?
The hardest part was distinguishing his talent from the system. Sure, he was a great high post passer, but there's no way he gets those looks without playing the 4. He was an elite midrange shooter curling off screens — and the Wizards did their part trying to showcase that early on — but in order for him to succeed, he'd have to trade those attempts for threes. What translated immediately was his cutting off-ball and his intuition as a help defender, the latter of which has become paramount in any defensive system.
This is what makes analyzing the draft so difficult. It's not enough to simply look at a players' skill set before deeming him "NBA ready." You have to be certain his production in college wasn't simply a mirage, and that those skills you think will translate can actually fit the offense he's going to.
That's what makes Jerian Grant out of Notre Dame so tantalizing as a potential target for the Wizards. He checks off most of those boxes while filling a gaping hole on this roster. The coaching staff isn't wrong in saying the two and three positions are interchangeable and that they can theoretically have guys like Rasual Butler and Martell Webster swing between both positions, but the reality is they need someone at that spot that actually looks the part of a guard.
At 6'5, 198 pounds, that's what Grant is. He's a traditional point guard capable of making advanced reads out of the pick and roll that also spent a good amount of time off-ball and defending two-guards. He got the best of both worlds in that sense, being the rare combo-guard that isn't just typecast as a shooting guard in a point guards body.
And what's better is he played in an offense conducive to point guards, which has become the norm in the NBA. Coach Mike Brey made it a point of emphasizing pace and space and motion sets; utilizing drag screens and side pick and rolls to trigger early offense, and after that, he lets his guards handle the rest.
They'll use HORNS, a set ran by many pro and collegiate teams that call for two players at the elbows and two in the corners, while deploying Grant off the ball as Demetrius Jackson runs the offense. Watch him cut backdoor the second his man lunges out to take away the handoff action.
Grant shows terrific patience as a ball handler. He understands when to slow down and wait for his teammates, and he always has his head on a swivel. DraftExpress ranks him fourth among their top-100 prospects with 7.3 assists per 40 minutes (and this comes even with playing next to a point guard in the starting lineup), and second in pure point ratio, a metric they devised that takes into account his passing and how often he coughs the ball up. He's one of the few prospects I've seen this year that has consistently fooled defenses into thinking he's going toward one side of the floor, only to change course either with a quick crossover and by rifling a pass over the top.
On this play, Grant only needs to take one dribble as he comes off the screen to draw in the hedge and immediately hit Zach Auguste rolling to the rim.
This is why he'll be a point guard in this league moving forward. His patience is key, but he also rarely forces the issue. You can trap him, or ICE him by shading him away from his screener, as Duke continued to do throughout the season, but he'll always make the simple play and trust his teammates.
But that patience doesn't always translate to his scoring. He can create his own shot, with his weapon of choice being his patented step-back jumper that generally creates good separation, but those looks tend to bail out the defense, especially when he's drawn out a switch with a big man defender. He had a down year shooting the three as well, and it seems like he may need to sharpen his mechanics so that he's more on balance and is landing at the same spot he started his release.
He also has a slight frame at just 198 pounds, which hampers his ability to finish at the rim, but I think he's crafty enough to develop an in-between game that may serve him well as he gets into the lane.
As a defender, he leaves a lot to be desired, but you have to wonder how he might fair once he's coached up. He gets screened off easily, but some of it has to do with him simply not seeking out where the screen is coming from and how to position himself so that he doesn't get swallowed up. It's the same problem that John Wall and Bradley Beal had as rookies, though Grant has a multitude of other issues that extend far beyond fighting through screens. It often seems like he's going through the motions on this end, whether it's falling asleep on a spot-up shooter or straying too far from his mark as he goes hunting for steals.
Those bad habits have killed him, but if he's used more on-ball defending point guards where he can use his superior size, he stands to improve. But the tools for him to play from day one are there, and there aren't many better options should the Wizards opt for a guard at 19.