Coming off a disastrous 19 win season the year before, the 76ers entered the 2014 NBA draft looking to add to their very young core. Already led by a Syracuse guard in Michael Carter Williams, Sam Hinkie and the rest of the front office felt it was only right to pair him up with a former college teammate.
With the 9th pick in the second round (39th overall), the 76ers drafted 20 year old small forward Jerami Grant.
Grant ticked off all the boxes when it came to what type of roster the Sixers were attempting to create in the mid-2010s. Young, athletic, versatile, and dripping with potential. Hinkie had made it known on multiple occasions that he wasn’t in the market for C+ players, he wanted future stars. A high ceiling guy like Grant fit that description early on.
Grant entered the league still pretty raw skills-wise. His overall athleticism and height (6’ 8”) helped him garner some early success, but he was still far away from blossoming into a legit contributor. Grant’s highlight from his rookie season was on January 21st, when he recorded 8 blocks, the most by a Sixers rookie since 1994.
Grant would continue upon a impressive developmental track during his second season in the NBA, seeing his points per game rise from 6.3 to 9.7, and his minutes per game from 21.2 to 26.8. Grant also saw minor improvements in his rebounding, defense, and passing. His 3P% took a hit, but his overall efficiency from the floor skyrocketed.
Grant started 52 games during the 2015-2016 season, and with the improvements he showed across the board, it appeared like he was set up to be a starter for years to come.
Unfortunately, the Sixers experienced a pretty serious change in executive personnel during the 2016 offseason. With Hinkie opting to resign, Bryan Colangelo assumed full control over the position of general manager. Yes, that same Bryan Colangelo who very infamously used “burner” Twitter accounts to bash Joel Embiid…
Colangelo traded Grant to the Oklahoma City Thunder just two games into the 2016-2017 season, receiving a protected future first-round pick and Ersan Ilyasova back in return.
At still just 22 years old, Grant assumed a rotational role with the playoff-bound Thunder. Grant struggled in his first year with OKC, obviously not totally used to his new role (the Thunder utilized him more as a floor spacer). After a full offseason in which he could work on his shot, Grant returned back to his usual form in 2017.
By the 2018-2019 season, Grant found himself finally exploding onto the scene as a legit starter. Operating primarily as a “stretch four” at the power forward position, Grant averaged a career high 13.6 points per game while shooting 39.2% from three.
After watching Grant post the best year of his career, the Thunder felt inclined to cash out on the young wing player. With OKC altering their plans at the time and embracing more of a “rebuild”, it made sense when they shipped him off to Denver for a 2020 first-round pick.
Despite being relegated back to the bench when he arrived in Denver, Grant’s overall production didn’t really dip. Playing in six less minutes per game, Grant still averaged 11+ points per game while shooting a career-best 40% from three.
Prior to the league’s suspension this year, Grant was performing like one of the top sixth men in the league, on one of the best teams in the league. Not bad for a former second round pick.
Sixers fans are still complaining about Grant being traded back in 2016, and it’s pretty easy to see why. Grant was young, athletic, on a cheap contract, and developing at a rapid rate. Considering the Nuggets were willing to part with a first-rounder for Grant, it’s obvious how the rest of the NBA views his value. Elton Brand could only dream of pairing up a guy like Grant with Simmons and Embiid today.
Funny enough, the first-round pick that the Sixers did receive in the Grant trade is the pick which they’re projected to have in this year’s upcoming draft. While it’s all fun and nice that it ultimately did convey to Philly (mainly by sheer luck), you’d have to think the 76ers would much rather have Grant instead.
The Colangelo experiment was a complete and utter disaster, and the loss of Grant is just one of many examples of the former GM’s ineptitude. With that said, I’m sure Sam Hinkie is sitting down somewhere, grinning from ear to ear seeing how successful Grant has been in recent years.
Check out some of the other entries in our “Rewinding the Process” series:
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