76ers

Threes only thing holding Grant back from being true X-factor

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Threes only thing holding Grant back from being true X-factor

When a team is 4-36, it’s hard to label any player an X-factor.

But for those four wins the Sixers have this season, one of the biggest difference makers has been second-year forward Jerami Grant.

In each of the four wins, Grant has posted positive numbers in the plus-minus column. In fact, Grant has 11 plus-games this season, third on the team behind JaKarr Sampson and T.J. McConnell. In addition, Grant’s plus-22 on Nov. 4 in Milwaukee is the highest registered by any Sixer this season.

Though it’s far from a perfect stat, it does show which players can make things happen. For the Sixers, that has been Grant.

“I think he can be an elite defender,” head coach Brett Brown said after Tuesday’s practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

But ...

“He’s a versatile player whose growth could be expedited by his three-point percentage — his three-point shot,” Brown said. “We’ve grown him and if he can improve on that and the defensive qualities we’ve recognized, he’s a keeper for sure.”

Yes, if there is one flaw in Grant’s game it’s his shooting percentage. The second-year player out of Syracuse is connecting on just 19.7 percent of his threes this season and 42.2 percent on all of his shots. Though he’s averaging 8.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, Grant’s outside game has fallen back this season. Nevertheless, Grant has fired up a three-pointer in all but five of the Sixers’ 40 games this season, but has hit a three in just 11 of his appearances.

Though he’s a catalyst on the court for the Sixers and notching plus-games, Grant’s shooting hasn’t done him any favors.

“I’m definitely struggling from the three-point line this season, but I’m getting better,” Grant said. “It feels more comfortable when I shoot it, I just have to be more confident.”

Regardless, Brown says Grant has “earned the right” to fire up open threes despite his shooting percentage and experience. In his two seasons at Syracuse, Grant went a combined 6 for 20 from three-point range, including 0 for 5 in 32 games of his final season.

He also went 49 for 156 (31.4 percent) from three in his rookie season, not exactly showing signs of becoming a solid NBA three-point shooter.

But perhaps Grant has to start shooting and making three-pointers in order to turn himself into a bona fide rotation player in the NBA. At 6-foot-8 and 210 pounds, Grant is long and lean and maybe undersized to be the prototype NBA power forward like his dad, Harvey, or uncle, Horace. But as a stretch-four with athleticism and the addition of a perimeter game, Grant could turn into that X-factor player.

“You just have to get him older,” Brown said. “The thing we always remind him and the thing he appreciates is the privilege of shooting NBA threes. When your percentage doesn’t mirror what it should, but you know that’s where he has to go, it’s a luxury and a privilege he doesn’t abuse. He puts in the time. I say that because that’s going to be the swing vote that separates him.

“I think he’s a stretch-four man and he can play three. Where he’s the most dangerous is when four-men try to guard him and chase him in a catch-go.”

Grant is also dangerous on defense, where his quickness and length are troublesome to the opposition. Brown says he encourages Grant to go after shots from the weak side and his 1.6 blocks per game are the best on a team that leads the NBA in blocked shots.

Plus, opponents shoot nearly 53 percent when Grant is off the court compared to 49 percent when he’s on the floor. Those numbers would stand out even more if Grant shot a better percentage from three.

He knows it, too.

“I just have to make them,” Grant said. “I’ve put the work in, I just have to knock them down.”

Sixers Talk podcast: New-look starting 5; What food would you break quarantine for?

Sixers Talk podcast: New-look starting 5; What food would you break quarantine for?

On this edition of Sixers Talk, we discuss which food we'd break quarantine for, the Sixers' new-look starting five and much more.

(2:16) — Richaun Holmes forced to quarantine after leaving the bubble for food.
(10:28) — Two players test positive for COVID-19 while inside the bubble.
(15:54) — With Shake Milton at point guard, it sounds like Sixers are leaning toward a new starting five.

Subscribe and rate Sixers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube



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Why Shake Milton could thrive in strange NBA playoffs this year

Why Shake Milton could thrive in strange NBA playoffs this year

On March 1, Shake Milton introduced himself to the NBA world by dropping 39 points on the Clippers in L.A on national TV.

Not bad for a guy that was told he was out of the rotation before an injury to Ben Simmons thrust him into the starting lineup.

But that seems to be the story of Milton. He’s unflappable. Whatever his life or career presents him, he keeps moving forward.

As the Sixers continue their training camp at Disney World to prepare for the resumed NBA season, Brett Brown has been using Milton as his starting point guard, moving Simmons to the four. That means the 23-year-old that’s played 52 career NBA games appears to have the inside track on a starting job for a team looking to go on a deep playoff run.

No pressure or anything there.

There are people that just thrive in these circumstances. You can throw them in intense situations, and they act so calm you have to wonder if they even have a pulse. Milton’s imperturbable demeanor has likely helped him get to where he is. 

He was a freshman in high school when he lost his father. Myron Milton was just 43 when he passed away suddenly. The two were close and basketball was a big part of their bond. His dad told him to “just go out there and play like you’re the best player on the floor,” Shake said to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Serena Winters.

The Oklahoma native was recruited to play at SMU by former Sixers coach and Hall of Famer Larry Brown, who said he “got lucky” in landing Milton over the likes of the University of Oklahoma and Indiana. Milton had a strong college career but that’s also where injuries became an unfortunate part of his story.

Milton suffered a hand injury that limited him to 22 games his junior year and final season for the Mustangs. A back injury presumably caused him to slip to the back end of the draft. After making strides at the NBA level his rookie season, he suffered another hand injury. Just three games into the 2019-20 season — and when it appeared he had a legitimate chance at a spot in the rotation — a knee injury sidelined him.

Ironically, injuries are what led to his next prolonged NBA opportunity. When Simmons went down, Milton stepped in and produced in a big way, averaging 17.8 points and shooting 60.4 percent from three over his last nine games before play was suspended.

All the injuries and time spent with the Delaware Blue Coats has led to this moment, where he could potentially be the team's starting point guard in the postseason.

“You won’t find a better kid than him, and somebody that really trusts the process,” Larry Brown said as a guest on the Sixers Talk podcast in May. “And Philly did a remarkable job with him. Playing in the G League in Delaware, Shake told me was huge. …

“The greatest thing is they had patience with him. They had some injuries and you never know when the opportunity is going to be there for you to show you can play.”

Milton has rewarded that patience already. Now, he’ll have to try to carry the momentum he built before the season was suspended onto one of the biggest NBA stages.

But it’s all part of Milton’s story and why if anyone can do this at a young age and with so little NBA experience, it could be him.

“There’s a poise that he has as a person that I’m assuming everybody on this call that has interviewed him feels,” Brett Brown said in a video conference call with reporters Tuesday. “And I think that can help him navigate through a pressure situation of the NBA playoffs. I do believe how he’s wired from a human perspective can help him deal with that environment I think in a more calm way.”

Subscribe and rate Sixers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube



Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers