No Knick came out of last season looking good. A few Knicks looked especially out-of-sorts adapting to the Triangle, including all three shooting guards, and after sending Tim Hardaway Jr. to the Hawks for Jerian Grant, all three of those shooting guards are now gone.
Hardaway could find a nice niche on an Atlanta team that can offer him a narrower role and vastly more talented, coherent teammates. There were some signs of growth last year in his all-around game, but they were mostly incremental, and the drop-off in his outside shooting was hard to watch at times. He was a long way from the All-Rookie team player we saw in 2014 and the Knicks probably got back as much as they could have hoped for. But who did the Knicks get back?
Jerian Grant is 6'5", 204 pounds. He'll turn 23 shortly before the new season begins. His game is the polar opposite of Hardaway's, which is to say Grant does things. Lots of things. Last year he averaged 16.5 points, 6.6 assists, 3 rebounds and 1.7 steals for Notre Dame, leading the ACC in assists per game and assist percentage, as well as free throws made and attempted and win shares (Jahlil who?). Every year of his college career he averaged at least a steal and a half per 40 minutes. His height and wingspan (6'8") help him on both ends: when he's running the offense he can see over his man as passing lanes develop, and he has the length to disrupt passing lanes when he's defending.
User-friendliness isn't a draft buzzword, but if it were, Grant would be lauded for his user-friendliness-ness. Plug and play!
Just put me on a team and watch me work!— Jerian Grant (@JerianGrant) June 11, 2015
His strengths are his size, his passing, and his ability to create offense for himself and his teammates. Grant led all collegians last year producing 1.45 points per half court possession via a shot or an assist (minimum 500 possessions). He hit 55% on runners and shots at the rim; his assist-to-turnover ratio was slightly better than three to one. His 57% shooting on twos was tops among Draft Express's top 100 guards. The 32% he shot on threes was his lowest as a collegian; over the prior four years and 81 games he hit 36% from downtown. In short, the Knicks acquired a big point guard who can get his and set up others for theirs. That's a good look.
In the spirit of Warner Wolf, let's go to the videotape.
A few items of note:
-- At the 1:10 mark Grant shows his ability to find the open man. Most intriguing in these clips is how often Grant finds the best open man, rather than the first open man. One of the biggest steps the Knicks can take in their march toward a respectable NBA offense would be smarter possessions that more frequently result in getting what they want, rather than what the defense will give them. You saw that a lot the year Jason Kidd was here, and it was one of the first glaring signs from 2014 that something essential was now missing. So much of success boils down to being able to dictate terms. Grant looks like he can help with that.
-- Six-foot-five point guards who can post and pass -- GIVE. A shade under 60% of Grant's post-ups resulted in passes, which resulted in 1.54 points per possession on such plays, which is a terrific number. The Triangle requires players who can post and who can make the smartest pass out of double-teams. The Knicks have one in Carmelo Anthony. Maybe now they have two. See Grant working out of the block at 1:33.
-- About a quarter of all his jumpers last year were within 17 feet. That's some midrange-heavy shit, which again - not to make the Triangle some zealous cult involving Kool-Aid and white sneakers; it's a default offense, for Christ's sake - will come in handy on a team that runs the Triangle. At 1:55 you can scope Grant's J.
-- The Knicks figure to run more pick-and-roll, too, like they did as last year progressed, and as you can see at the 3:25 mark, Grant is adept running pick-and-rolls. He can hit the roll man; he can find the open shooter. If you really want to dream big, go to the 5:00 mark and imagine that's Melo or Kristaps Porzingis getting such clean looks in transition thanks to Grant's ability to push and think on his feet.
-- At 6:59 there's more pick-and-roll highlights. Grant looks comfortable pulling up from three or attacking the rim. With his midrange proclivity and his IQ and vision, he's a constant threat to do something good. Whether it works out or not, I would love to see the Knicks pick up like ten more possessions per game that end with the offense getting something good.
-- At 8:00 you'll see Grant loves busting out a lefty step-back one-on-one. Step-backs are always fun to watch. And imagining Clyde saying "Grant lefty step-back baby jumper!" one cold night in February already has me stoked.
The biggest questions around Grant deal with his strength and his shooting. How will a guy who struggled physically to fight through screens in college handle more screens from bigger stronger opponents over more games over a more intense schedule? Grant was susceptible to post-ups by bigger guards. Pairing him with Jose Calderon or Langston Galloway against big backcourts could be problematic.
On the other side of that coin, how will he adapt to taller, stronger interior defenders? The splits in his finishing-at-the-rim numbers are stark: 74% against teams that didn't reach the NCAA tournament, 47% against teams that did. If that doesn't pick up at the professional level, teams are going to give him open lanes and dare him to drive, which could lead to him over-relying on bad jumpers; a number of scouts criticized Grant for a tendency to settle for long jumpers early in the shot clock. Despite his shooting percentages, he's considered just an average spot-up shooter, often releasing his shot from the left side of his face.
On the other hand, a lot of scouts also say he has no hops. I mean...
Not only do Grant and Phil Jackson have Horace Grant (Jerian's uncle; Phil's first threepeat power forward) in common, they appear to share similar worldviews. Phil recently lamented LeBron's game and NBA offense in general. Et tu, Jerian?
If I'm a Cavs player I'm kinda thinking like how much do you want us to do when every possession is just a Lebron iso or post up.— Jerian Grant (@JerianGrant) June 15, 2015
He's def the best player in the world but where's the offensive structure.— Jerian Grant (@JerianGrant) June 15, 2015
Grant's skill set includes intelligence, making others better, and generally enhancing an offense in a number of different ways. These qualities have been lacking in the Knick backcourt, save Linsanity, ever since Chauncey Billups and Jason Kidd's cameos ended. If Grant can add some muscle and sweeten his stroke, his Broadway run could be an extended one.