Jerami Grant's uncanny 3-point shooting could prove his calling card for Pistons
If preseason numbers actually matter, there might be some cause for concern with Jerami Grant and his offensive production. Even with the eye test, the Pistons’ starting unit didn’t run smoothly in splitting their four preseason games.
Grant posted 10.8 points and shot 29% on field goals and an encouraging 35% on 3-pointers. What was more troubling was the 12 turnovers and just two assists.
Again, it’s just numbers. The preseason is just a data point for how Grant fits into the Pistons’ offense.
What seems more reliable are Grant’s numbers from last season: 12 points, 48% field goals and 39% from beyond the arc.
That’s what coach Dwane Casey optimistic about where the Pistons can go behind Grant, their key addition in free agency. Grant came to the Pistons looking for a bigger offensive role, and all signs point to him getting that, with Blake Griffin being more of a facilitator and rookie point guard Killian Hayes helping to complement Grant.
The issue is more that the offense was disjointed, with turnovers taking away opportunities and with only a week of training camp before the games started, just getting used to playing within those groupings.
“He's an elite 3-point shooter and I've got to give him some confidence and some patience as far as getting into those spots and being comfortable just waiting for the ball to find him,” Casey said Monday. “In our offense, we're one of the top teams in finding the corner three and he's one of the best not only at the corner three, but the arc 3-point shooters in the league, which is even more valuable.
“I think it's just the comfort level of him coming into a new situation, a new system feeling comfortable. He shows it every day in practice, his ability to knock down 3-point shots.”
Grant was on a nice run between the third and fourth preseason games with his 3-point shooting, but that tailed off toward the end of Saturday’s loss to the Wizards. That the Pistons won two games is more a reflection on the defense being a little ahead of the offense than the starters struggling.
Casey didn’t play the first unit for a significant amount of time — Grant and Griffin averaged about 24 minutes, along with 22 for Hayes — so some of that production will increase gradually as they get more playing time together. They haven’t jelled as a unit yet and with more practices, they’ll gain some of that familiarity.
That’s one of the downsides of reconstructing a roster almost entirely in a short offseason, but it’s the path the Pistons have chosen.
“I think that we're getting better every game,” Grant said. “It's going to be a process and it's not going to be easy, but at the same time, I think we're definitely moving in the right direction.”
They won’t have much time to get things going, as the regular season begins Wednesday at Minnesota and although Casey says there will be a ramping up of minutes, all teams are facing the dilemma of how to establish chemistry in a short time span of a truncated training camp.
The Pistons were solid defensively, but if they can’t score, that’ll pose some issues throughout the season. Turnovers make the task that much more difficult.
“We were getting solid shots, shooting solid percentages for the most part,” Griffin said. “I think if you looked at the whole but when you're taken away 20, 23 or 24 shots a game, you're fighting an uphill battle. We need to do a better job of taking care of the ball, for sure.”
Hayes plays heads-up ball
Casey likes what he’s seen from Hayes in the preseason, especially on the defensive end, where he’s been very good in covering the weak side and making sure that quick passes don’t get easy looks, especially on 3-pointers.
“Usually, young players are resting and trying to figure things out on the weak side with all the action — here comes a cutter behind him or an offensive rebounder,” Casey said. “He's aware, and he's a smart kid. He may get beat once but usually, he doesn't get beat twice on the weak side.
“His awareness on the weak side is top-notch. That's what we need from everybody, but from him, I think getting (beaten) a lot over in Europe has probably helped him.”