With the NBA season in Orlando just a fortnight away, a matchup between the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets in the second round of the playoffs seems like almost a certainty at this point. An intriguing matchup during this series would be how Nuggets forward Jerami Grant defends Kawhi Leonard.
In the summer of 2019, the Denver Nuggets received Grant during a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Denver gave up a 2020 first-round pick. This move went under the radar, but the Nuggets knew what they were getting. The 6’8″ forward’s athleticism, 7’3″ wingspan, and ability to make 40 percent of his three-point shots makes him the perfect modern-day stretch 4. Though the Thunder’s future is bright, will GM Sam Presti rue the decision to let Grant go for next to nothing?
In their two matchups this season, Kawhi is 2/11 (18%) from the field when Grant defends him. Leonard was blocked twice and turned the ball over twice as well in 29 possessions.
In the January matchup between Los Angeles and Denver, the Nuggets got the better of the Clippers because of Jerami. It’s imperative to play great defense, especially against one of the deadliest duos in today’s NBA, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Let’s break down some film:
In that last video, Grant shows incredible agility to recover and contest the shot after he’s caught on the wrong foot by a driving Leonard. This is something only a handful of players have in the game.
Grant shows his skills by not biting on Kawhi’s pump-fake. This forces Leonard to look for alternate options and he ends up turning over the ball.
This may be a small sample size, but Grant’s defense can make life difficult for Kawhi in the playoffs. Denver’s chances of beating the Clippers instantly goes up when Jerami Grant is focused defensively.