Denver Nuggets’ acquisition Jerami Grant excited to join contender
Jerami Grant didn’t see it coming.
The 25-year-old forward was focused on an individual offseason workout in D.C., trying to build off a career-year in the 2018-19 season. Then the news came. Grant received a call from Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti letting him know was being traded to the Denver Nuggets. He was surprised about the trade, but he is looking forward to being part of an expected contender in the Western Conference.
"I'm definitely excited to be here and be a part of a winning organization,” Grant said at his introductory press conference on Thursday.
Although the move came as a surprise to the 6-foot-9 forward, it was a move Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly has been trying to execute for years.
“There’s always a group of guys that you covet and try to get in your building, with full sincerity, Jerami is one of those guys,” Connelly said. “He’s a guy that we’ve long coveted, we’re unbelievably fortunate to add him to our team.”
Drafted 39th overall in 2014 by the Sixers, Grant had a breakthrough campaign for the Thunder last season. The 6-foot-9 player, who boasts a 7-foot-3 wingspan, had career highs in games started (77), points (13.6), rebounds (5.2) and three point percentage (39.2). Nuggets head coach Michael Malone is intrigued by Grant’s versatility on both sides of the court and believes his new acquisition has plenty of room to grow offensively in the Nuggets’ system.
“We’re a ball-moving team,” Malone said. “This isn’t negative, but OKC was a ball-dominant, dribble team with Russ [Russell Westbrook] and PG [Paul George]. So I think the amount of easy baskets that Jerami is going to get, just by running the floor without the ball, I think he might be surprised initially.”
Grant certainly noticed Denver’s style of play while with the Thunder, where his team went 0-4 against their Northwest Division rivals during last season.
“They always move the ball, at an extremely high clip,” Grant said. “They get a lot of open shots, a lot of easy baskets.”
Grant is eager to play with Nuggets’ lead faciliator and All-NBA first teamer, Nikola Jokić.
“It’ll be great, I think anyone who can pass the ball, the way he can pass the ball [is fun to play with],” Grant said. “Scoring the ball the way he can, him just being able to do what he can do, overall, is good for anyone who’s on the court. I’m definitely excited to play with him.”
As tantalizing as Grant’s offensive potential is, it’s his work on the other side of the court, which can bring an immediately impact for the Nuggets. Denver was tied for 24th in blocking shots at 4.4 swats per game last season and Grant’s size and length will be a welcome addition. He is an underrated shot-blocker, averaging 1.3 blocks per game – 18th in the NBA in that category. The former Syracuse standout is also very effective at making quick reads and switching on defense.
“He does a lot of things really well, but what really stands out is that in today's NBA, his ability to guard and cover whoever in the league,” Malone said. “He can use his size, length and athleticism to cover up for other mistakes. We took a big jump defensively last season and adding someone like Jerami is only going to strengthen our defense next year."
The Nuggets believe he’ll also be a great fit in their culture and in the locker room. Connelly and Grant have a long relationship, dating back to when Jerami’s father, Harvey, played for the Bullets/Wizards. Grant is friends with Gary Harris and Will Barton, so he’ll have two key players who can help him in transitioning into the Mile High City.
All in all, the Nuggets are looking forward to seeing what Grant can bring to the team next season.
“He’s going to help us take the next step,” Malone said. Last year was a great year for us, but we’re not satisfied. I think adding a person of Jerami’s talents and the person that he is, the ability to add to our culture, it’s just going to make us a much better team and a more dangerous team.”