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We've considered several prospects who might go in the 5-7 picks immediately ahead of where the Cleveland Cavaliers will draft. Guys like Tyus Jones, R.J. Hunter, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson might be great options for the Cavs, but they might also are as likely to be drafted at 17 by the Milwaukee Bucks as they are to go at No. 24. The bottom of the first round is a complete mystery in terms of order, and there are plenty of guys who could slip if that's how the order shakes out. We don't have the time to cover everyone - guys like Sam Dekker and Kevon Looney won't be covered even though they fit here- but because I'd rather be optimistic someone will fall rather than plan for the Cavs to reach for someone, we're going to profile another guy who fits in that tier: Jerian Grant.
Who is Jerian Grant?
A consensus Fist Team All-American, Grant was the heart and sole of a very, very good Notre Dame team this past season. After missing the second half of his junior year with academic issues, Grant returned for his senior season and burnt the ACC to the ground with his all-around offensive game. As should be obvious for a 22-year old senior point guard, his command of the college game was really unrivaled, and while his shooting regressed from the year previous, he also became a more skilled playmaker and better overall point guard prospect. As he moves on to the NBA, Grant projects as a serviceable role playing point guard, and should be one of the more impactful rookies if he can land in the right situation. Draft Express and Bleacher Report rank him as the 15th-best prospect, and CBS Sports slots him at 17th.
Grant has pretty good size for a point guard, at a hair under 6'5" with a 6'7" wingspan. He uses this size to his advantage in the post, where he can shoot over defenders and use his quickness to get around them. He's pretty quick, too, and this size/speed combination makes him a very imposing prospect as a drive-and-kick specialist. He's not the most explosive player, but he can finish at the rim and draws a ton of contact, averaging 5.2 free throw attempts per 40 minutes for his career. He'd be a more enticing prospect if he was a little stronger or more explosive, but he's pretty average in most departments with no glaring weaknesses physically, so he should do fine.
Grant's a very, very well-rounded offensive player. Really his only weakness on this end is his catch-and-shoot jumper, which he has very inconsistent mechanics on. But outside of that, he really doesn't have a weakness. He's a strong scorer in the paint and from midrange, using his quickness to dart into the paint and pull-up when he gets space. He's an adept ball-handler, both in dribbling in traffic, and maneuvering the ball in the air to shield from blocks. He isn't the strongest player at the rim, but his ability to draw contact and pull-up on drives should make him a very effective driver at the next level. He's a lot better off the dribble than at a stand-still as a shooter, especially from three. I'm not totally worried about his outside shooting; he shot 35.7 percent from three before this past season, and won't have defenses bending to him as much in the pros, and he's very good shooting out of the pick-and-roll, which is where he'll get the most looks. He's a well-rounded scorer.
More impressive than his scoring, however, is his passing ability, especially out of the pick-and-roll. Grant's got a wide array of passing moves to hit both roll men and spot-up shooters, and his court vision is very good. He uses his ability to get past his man and into the lane, and the threat of his pull-up jumper, to freeze the defense and find open men. Grant's also a very solid transition passer, and pushed the pace successfully for a Notre Dame team that loved to get up and down the floor. Grant got most of his press last year for his ability to take over a game with his scoring, but he finished his career with the second-highest assist percentage in the ACC since 1997-1998, and he's going to be a very solid playmaker in the NBA.
Grant's not a good defender on the ball. He isn't very tough, doesn't like contact, and can get beat off the dribble pretty easily. However, he's really good off the ball, because he has great hands and anticipation, and is able to play passing lanes or pickpocket opposing point guards to the tune of 1.7 steals per game. And while he's not athletically imposing defensively, you can work with point guards who aren't good on the ball but post high steal rates. We've seen it with Stephen Curry, Ricky Rubio, Tony Parker, and Kyrie Irving; even if you're never going to get that type of guy to be Mike Conley, you can get a guy like that to put in more effort on the defensive end, and that player can fit into a decent defense. He won't be a great defender ever, but Grant should be able to at least be useful here.
I don't think Grant will take much development to be a rotation player in the NBA. He's such a good passer and polished scorer, and he only might struggle with defense and outside shooting, two things rookie point guards always struggle with. Similar to Ty Lawson, another polished point who was picked in a similar spot, Grant can probably work as a primary backup for a year or two and then transition to a starting role fairly easily. I think he might struggle to adjust to being a role player next to a ball-dominant player initially, but he should be a good fit in almost any team that needs a shot creator and likes to push the pace.
I hate to do player comaprisons to legends or All-Stars, because it ends up coming off as a direct comparison, which does a disservice to the legend or All-Star. That being said, there are several aspects of Grant's game that compare favorably to Tony Parker. Grant's ability to drive and kick and score in the midrange is fantastic, and he's crafty enough with the ball in the pick-and-roll that he offsets some of the athletic concerns you have, similar to Parker, who has never been an incredible athlete but is consistently a strong finisher at the rim. The defensive role of Parker is also a best case scenario for Grant on that end. Even though Parker is a way better player than Grant will likely be, he provides a good blueprint for the way Grant can play to his strengths and be an effective starter.
How Does He Fit on the Cavaliers?
Grant's ability to create for himself and others on the offensive end is a huge draw for a Cavs team that really struggled with that from its bench all season. Grant could be a serviceable backup for Kyrie over the next two seasons, and these two can probably play together, with Grant as the primary playmaker and Irving creating off of Grant through spot-up looks and secondary drives. He fits the Cavs' ISO-ball philosophy, and if it's him and Matthew Dellavedova switching up backup point guard duties depending on lineup and matchup, I'm fine with that. Grant's probably not a realistic option for the Cavs because he likely won't drop past the Dallas Mavericks at the 20th pick, but if he does fall to Cleveland, he would fit really, really well.