Jerami Grant Tried To Warn Us

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A friend of mine who plays in one of my leagues recently told me that his 11-year-old son, an avid fantasy basketball player, gave him a heads-up about Jerami Grant back in December.

As in: Dad, get Jerami Grant on your squad this season. You won't regret it.

I have lost sleep over this.

Not necessarily the fact that an 11-year-old spotted one of the season's most explosive breakout players before I ever did, but more that I had such a massive blind spot for Grant in the first place.

Here’s a player drafted on average 95th overall in Yahoo leagues — just after Davis Bertans, and right before Montrezl Harrell — who has been a legit top-30 fantasy option this season. And yes, I was aware that Grant should be better in Detroit than he was in Denver, but I never imagined it would be like this.

Through his first 25 games this season, Grant has put up 23.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.0 apg, 0.9 spg, 1.2 bpg and 2.5 3s, shooting 44.5 percent from the field and 87.1 from the line with just 1.6 turnovers a game.

It’s an absolute beast of a stat line, and if nothing else, it makes me file away two things for future reference:

1) Listen when a player (in this case, Grant) says he left a very good team to go to a very bad team because he wanted to put up better numbers. Grant was basically shouting into a megaphone that he was going to have a huge fantasy season, for anyone who would hear him. I did not hear it loudly or clearly enough.

2) Listen when the kids try to tell you something. They might be right.

(And if they’re wrong, at least you have an excuse for why your team didn’t pan out.)

In the spirit of Jerami Grant, here are some of the most pleasant (and unpleasant) surprises of the season so far:

Terry Rozier, PG/SG, CHA

A funny thing happened in Charlotte with this season's fantasy drafts. The presence of LaMelo Ball seemed to cause Terry Rozier’s ADP to plummet (Yahoo: 129.2) while LaMelo’s stayed relatively low as well (96.2).

We’ll get to Ball in a minute. As for Rozier, I did actually find myself drafting him in multiple leagues, but only because he was a potentially dynamic player who was still there late — so why not? However, if I’d known this was coming, I would have drafted him a lot earlier everywhere.

So far this season, Rozier has averaged 19.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.3 spg and 3.3 3s, shooting a far-and-away career-best 48.1 percent from the field — and 44.2 percent on 3s. Obviously that last number feels difficult to sustain, but Rozier has shown enough that he has room to backslide a bit and still be extremely useful.

LaMelo Ball, PG/SG, CHA

I give you credit if you somehow saw past LaMelo’s horrendous shooting struggles in Australia (37.5 percent from the field, on 16.7 attempts per game) and believed he’d be decent enough in that department to keep his fantasy value afloat.

In reality, he has done a whole lot more than just tread water.

For the season, Ball is up to 63rd overall in 9-category leagues (per BasketballMonster.com), riding a wave (I promise the water analogy ends here) of 21.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 6.8 apg, 1.6 spg and 2.8 3s — on 48.8 from the field and 90.0 from the line — over his last eight games. That includes a 34-point, zero-turnover game, and I legitimately would have to search for negatives at this point when it comes to Ball's outlook and production. For a 19-year-old, he’s been borderline spectacular, and even if/when some inevitable turbulence hits, his rest-of-season outlook is pretty great.

Before we move on from this particular basketball family, we’ve seen a pretty stout stretch from Lonzo Ball as well, as his last eight games have featured 17.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.8 apg, 1.4 spg and 3.8 3s as he continues to look a lot more comfortable (aka shoot the ball much better) in Stan Van Gundy's system.

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Al Horford, PF/C, OKC

Let’s take a break from youth for a moment, shall we? I’ll be honest, I left Horford's fantasy value for dead old before this season started. I certainly had some exceptions to the rule of mid-30s guys I would draft (LeBron James and Kyle Lowry, for example), but for me, Horford wasn’t happening.

But right now, it very much is happening. Over his last seven games, Easy Al has averaged 18.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 4.4 apg, 2.1 spg, 1.3 bpg and 2.7 3s. It’s pretty clearly an unsustainable hot streak for the almost 35-year-old, who’s shooting 52.8 percent on 3s during this run, but rather than desperately try to capitalize on this in trades (which probably won’t pan out since people seem skeptical), I’m just going to keep Horford on the roster and see how long this ridiculousness can last.

Tyrese Haliburton, PG/SG, SAC

I knew that Haliburton had NBA-ready game from extensive reading up on him prior to the draft. What I didn’t realize was that the often seemingly clueless Kings would actually be aware of that and give Haliburton an immediate opportunity.

What the rookie has done with it is put up top-50 fantasy numbers on the season, including 13.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 5.3 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.9 bpg and 2.5 3s across his last 10 games.

Now, a few of the most unpleasant surprises...

Jamal Murray, PG/SG, DEN

Raise your hand if you had Jamal Murray, after his series of spectacular performances in the bubble — including consecutive games of 50, 42 and 50 points! — not getting at all better, but instead putting up almost exactly the same numbers he has averaged the last couple of years. Consider:

2018-19: 18.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.8 apg, 0.9 spg, 2.0 3s

2019-20: 18.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.8 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.9 3s

2020-21: 18.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.4 apg, 1.0 spg, 2.0 3s

I’m a big believer in year-after-year trajectories having some meaning, and it’s hard to look at Murray’s numbers and think anything other than this guy has plateaued.

Then again, that’s a borderline ridiculous thing to say about a player with this skill set who’s only 23 years old, so I don’t know exactly what to make of this. Ultimately, it’s easy to imagine Murray getting hot later in the season and doing some big things, so I’d try to stay patient if you drafted him and hope he has a top-40/top-50 second half.

Deandre Ayton, C, PHO

Remember when Ayton had those back-to-back huge double-doubles on Jan. 20 and Jan. 22, putting up 26 and 17 (with five blocks) followed by 27 and 13?

That feels like an eternity ago.

In 10 games since, Ayton hasn’t topped 20 points one time, averaging just 13.1 ppg to go with 13.2 rpg, 0.3 spg and 0.9 bpg. Those numbers would be enough for some players. For a player who went as early as Ayton in drafts (ADP: 21.4), it’s not close. And given that the Suns have won seven out of eight with Ayton averaging 10.9 FG attempts, I can't imagine we’re approaching a drastic change any time soon.

Devin Booker, SG/SF, PHO

If you drafted Booker, you’re looking for some/any reason to be optimistic. To that end — and I don’t want to be unrealistic — we have seen at least some small encouraging signs over the last week. Given that the drop in assists (6.5 → 4.2) has been one of Booker’s biggest issues this season, it’s promising that we recently saw a season-high of 11 assists, followed by eight dimes the following game. We also saw Booker score a season-best 36 points followed by a 30-point evening one game later.

Overall, Booker’s numbers in February — 26.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.3 apg, 0.7 spg, 2.3 3s — still suggest that we aren’t there yet. But at least if you’ve been enduring this frustration, you have at least a little bit of momentum.

I’m now off to ask my friend what his 11-year-old thinks of Booker’s rest-of-season outlook.

For more on some recent trends — including Giannis Antetokounmpo’s free throw binge, a hot streak for John Collins and possible cause for concern around Anthony Davis, check out our latest podcast below…