Oklahoma City Thunder

Who is the Thunder’s Most Important Player Headed Into the Playoffs? (Part 3)

Zachary Low

zacharylow88

Two days ago, I began a series of posts to take a look at and argue the cases of a few players who could be considered the Thunder’s most important piece headed into the playoffs. I started off with Dennis Schröder just a few hours before he scored 14 points in the 4th quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves to help the Thunder to a 132-126 win.

Yesterday, I made the argument for Terrance Ferguson, who has been the Thunder’s breakout player of the year after finding himself in the starting lineup due to Andre Roberson’s injury.

Today, I want to take a look at starting power forward Jerami Grant.

Jerami Grant was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder from the Philadelphia 76ers just hours before the third game of the 2016-17 season. The Thunder was frantically working to put together a decent roster after the departure of Kevin Durant, and what looked like a small move exchanging Ersan Ilyasova and a conditional draft pick for Grant turned into a major move for the future of Thunder basketball.

Finishing up his third season now with the Thunder, Grant has seen steady increases in all major statistical categories. After averaging around 20 minutes per game in his first two seasons with OKC coming off the bench, Grant is averaging 32.5 minutes this season, and his role on this team is an important one.

In his extra play time this season, Grant is averaging career-high averages in both scoring with 13.5 points per game and rebounding with 5.2 per game. Though only 5th on the team in scoring, he has scored at least 20 points in 10 different games—4 since the All-Star Break. He has slowly become one of the Thunder’s most reliable shooters from three, knocking down 39.1% of his attempts on the season.

Not only has he cemented himself as a consistent force in the Thunder’s offense, he is typically a foundational piece in OKC’s defensive strategy night in and night out. Grant is a long and athletic power forward as opposed to a big or strong one, which allows him to fly around on defense, often defending basically any position necessary.

Jerami Grant is often an afterthought when looking over a box score considering the fact that he is playing alongside Russell Westbrook and Paul George. His high-flying dunks and incredible knack for blocking shots makes him the focal point of highlights, but he is often underappreciated. If OKC wants to make any type of a playoff run, they will need some big-time performances from the young forward, whether he gets credit for them or not.

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