In all of professional basketball, there is likely nothing more uncertain than a second-round draft pick. Sometimes they can end up being a key part of a franchise’s roster and help them win a championship and other times they can end up in the NBA D-League or overseas, all but forgotten.
With the large number of second-round picks the Sixers now have thanks to the machinations of GM Sam Hinkie, you knew any players he chose was going to be put under the microscope and analyzed to death. First-round picks may give you a future All-Star, but those second-rounders are going to be the bread and butter of your roster, the ones you call on to grind out games and make your superstar look good.
The Sixers went into the 2014 NBA Draft with five second-round picks and came away with quite a haul. As the season started, most of the attention was focused and K.J. McDaniels and his defensive skills and poster-worthy dunks. Most people agreed that McDaniels could have easily been a first-rounder in any other draft and that the Sixers got a steal when they picked him at No. 32 out of Clemson.
As for the rest, Jordan McRae ended up signing with Melbourne United instead of taking a chance on getting cut by the Sixers. Pierre Jackson tore his right Achilles during summer league and was waived and Vasilije Micic was a clear draft-and-stash.
And then there is the strange case of forward Jerami Grant.
Grant was picked No. 39 out of Syracuse and for the first part of the season, didn’t impress that many people. He quickly became known for a work ethic that was hard to match and a strong desire to improve his game, but that was about it. Grant played in a single game in November for all of three minutes due to an ankle injury and in December averaged only 3.8 points, 0.4 assists and 2.6 rebounds in the 14 games he played in. It seemed Grant might have been destined for mediocrity and some time with the Delaware 87ers.
Then the calendar flipped to 2015 and all hell broke loose.
Grant’s numbers went crazy in January, averaging 7.2 points, 1.1 assists and 2.9 rebounds in the month in addition to seeing his blocks per game skyrocket to 1.4 per game. He had 8 blocks on January 21 against the New York Knicks and four against the New Orleans Pelicans on January 26. Between him, McDaniels and fellow rookie Nerlens Noel, Sixers games are starting to look a lot like nightly block parties.
Then he seemingly decided that McDaniels wasn’t going to be the only Sixer who was going to be featured on the NBA highlight reels.
Man was that a nasty thing to do to poor Jonas Jerebko.
In addition to all that, there is Grant’s shooting from beyond the arc, which has been amazing as of late. His three-point percentage went from .214 to .474, averaging one per game for every 2.1 he attempts. It gives the Sixers and Michael Carter-Williams so many more options that just Robert Covington from downtown, and the effect has been noticeable. You just need look at the team’s recent two-game win streak and their heartbreaking loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday to see what the addition of Grant has done.
Coach Brett Brown has been high on Grant since day one, telling Max Rappaport of Sixers.com
“He just loves the game, he’s well-raised, went through a hell of a high school, [has an NBA] family tree… And then you look at his body, and then you look at his work ethic… and it all adds up into a very interesting prospect. He’s one of these guys, for me, that makes me want to hug Sam [Hinkie], because he nailed it.”
With all the second-round picks the Sixers have over the course of the next five years, Hinkie will have more than enough opportunities to show everyone his skills evaluating talent in the second-round. If even half of them turn out to be as good as Jerami Grant, a trip to the NBA finals for the Sixers will be inevitable.