This is the first time in his life as a big-time basketball player that Jerami Grant is the No. 1 option -- and he is enjoying the ride.
Grant, averaging 24.8 points in his first season with the Detroit Pistons, kept his momentum going Saturday night with 24 points, nine rebounds, six assists, four blocks, two steals and zero turnovers in a 120-100 win over the host Miami Heat.
The Pistons and Heat meet again Monday night in Miami, and Grant will surely be a big part of the scouting report.
"I'm still learning and growing, seeing what my team needs from me," said Grant, a potential first-time All-Star this season if he maintains this pace. "We're still getting to know each other on this team, but we have potential."
The same can be said for Grant, 26. The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 12.5 points as a high school senior on a loaded team at DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) and then averaged 3.9 points and 12.1 points in two years at Syracuse, which won 30 and 28 games, respectively, in those two seasons.
A second-round pick by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2014, Grant bounced from Philly to Oklahoma City to Denver in his first six seasons, never averaging more than 13.6 points.
He signed a three-year, $60-million deal with the Pistons in November, and the son of Harvey Grant and nephew of Horace Grant -- both ex-NBA standouts -- has finally started to blossom.
The Pistons, who have yet to win consecutive games this season, are hoping to take advantage of a short-handed Heat team that on Saturday was without Jimmy Butler and Avery Bradley -- both due to COVID-19 protocol -- as well as Tyler Herro (neck spasms) and Meyers Leonard (shoulder).
Herro and Butler are two of Miami's top three scorers. In addition, Butler tops the team in steals and is regarded as the team's emotional leader.
But Heat coach Erik Spoelstra refuses to make excuses.
"These are the circumstances, and it's not just for us," he said. "A lot of teams are going through this."
The Heat did get six players back from the COVID protocol on Saturday, and that includes a pair of recent All-Stars in Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic. Adebayo leads Miami in scoring (18.6), rebounds (8.8) and blocks (1.2) while also dishing 5.1 assists. Dragic leads Miami's second unit and is averaging 14.4 points with a team-high 5.6 assists.
Still, the Heat's injury/illness issues have forced some newcomers to fill in, and that includes KZ Okpala, who made his first NBA start on Saturday and produced 16 points while sinking 4 of 5 3-point attempts.
In addition, Gabe Vincent scored a career-high 24 points on Tuesday against the 76ers and then added 21 points in the rematch on Thursday.
Vincent was an undrafted player, and Okpala was a second-round selection by the Phoenix Suns in 2019.
But while the Heat on Monday will look for help from these under-the-radar players, Detroit can turn to Grant as well as established veterans such as Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose. Griffin had 15 points, eight assists and seven rebounds on Saturday. Rose, who had missed Detroit's two previous games due to left-knee soreness, produced 23 points, four assists and four steals in 21 minutes off the bench.
--Field Level Media