Only four of the 16 players who participated in the three-day camp for free agents the Pistons hosted this week were NBA draft picks. And of them, only Jordan Crawford was picked higher than Grant Jerrett.
He comes with a skill set and size for his position that every NBA team covets today. But since being picked 40th by Oklahoma City in 2013, Jerrett has played a total of eight NBA games, all in the 2014-15 season.
Jerrett left Arizona after a freshman season in which he played 18 minutes a game and showed some of the promise that made him a five-star recruit in the class of 2012. But the Wildcats were stacked – Jerrett was part of a recruiting class that included two other five-star big men, Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley, each of whom played a little more than Jerrett as freshmen – and had two more five-star frontcourt players coming on board, Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
But Jerrett, ranked 15th in the nation by Rivals.com, insisted at the time and remains adamant that he left Arizona not for fear of at-risk playing time but because it had always been his dream to get to the NBA.
He’ll have to fight to get back to it.
Oklahoma City hasn’t made many draft mistakes. Beyond Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden in the top five, the Thunder have hit on Steven Adams with the 12th pick and Andre Roberson with the 26th pick in 2013 and on Reggie Jackson at 24 in 2011. They moved to get Jerrett – sent to Utah as part of the three-team deal that brought Jackson to Detroit in February 2015 – when he was still available at 40 three years ago, buying the pick from Portland.
So there remains reasonable optimism that Jerrett, still just 22, can become a productive NBA player. In 2014-15, he averaged about 20 points and nine rebounds a game and shot 40 percent from the 3-point line in the D-League. He’s 6-foot-10½ with a 7-foot-2 wing span. But he lost last season after dislocating his shoulder in Summer League, requiring surgery that led to Utah waiving him, and came to Auburn Hills looking to remind the NBA – the ultimate what-have-you-done-for-me-lately endeavor – that he’s still here, still a prospect.
“Just to compete,” he said of accepting the invitation to Pistons camp. “A lot of these guys came from overseas or whatnot. I haven’t played in a little bit. Being able to get up and down, which is fun, and learning new things, really.”
The Pistons are in the market for a power forward with Jerrett’s size and shooting stroke. If they like what they see from him – and don’t come out of draft night with a power forward they’d want to play extensively in Summer League – Jerrett is a realistic option to be invited to Orlando to take the next step in his NBA comeback.
“I haven’t heard anything yet,” he said Wednesday, the second day of camp. “I’ll ask my agent once this is over with. Any team, really. Any team to get an opportunity with, I’ll take it.”
Jerrett doesn’t regret leaving Arizona after one season. In fact, he embraced that first season in Oklahoma City despite not suiting up for the Thunder, playing 29 D-League games and averaging 15 points and six rebounds. He feels he’s better prepared to help an NBA team today than he would be had he stayed all four years at Arizona – which would have meant he’d be part of the June 23 draft and auditioning for NBA teams right now.
“I don’t need to regret anything,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it. Only bad things I’ve had are injuries. Other than that, it’s been fine for me. The first year, I learned so much and treating it as an actual job, just being serious about it. Not that I wasn’t, but it changes. A whole new level when you get here from college. So, totally prepared.”
Among the things he’s learned: Making it in the NBA is as much about finding the right opportunity as about talent and preparation.
“I feel like that is for every player – find the right opportunity for you, wherever it is,” he said. “Everyone tries to, hopefully, be in the NBA, but it’s the right opportunity, the right fit.”
He put his best foot forward this week to see if the right fit for him is the Pistons. Now the Pistons must decide if Grant Jerrett is the right fit for them.