The Orange basketball team will now need to replace a third starter for next season.
As previously reported on CuseNation.com, sophomore forward Jerami Grant will enter the NBA Draft, joining fellow early entrant Tyler Ennis and graduating senior C.J. Fair. The trio of Ennis, Fair, and Grant combined for nearly 42 points per game for the Orange. Plus, Grant excelled after moving into the starting lineup following center DaJuan Coleman's season-ending knee injury.
So why go pro if you are Jerami Grant?
There are the obvious reasons: money and health. Grant will make more money in the NBA than at Syracuse (millions versus nothing).
If he had returned for his junior season, there was always the risk of injury, that was something that particularly impacted Grant, who had missed games this past season due to a lower back strain.
The decision likely came down to more than that though, returning to the Orange would also mean even higher expectations for Grant himself. With Ennis and Fair gone, Grant would have become the primary scoring option. If players like Trevor Cooney and Rakeem Christmas performed as inconsistently as last season, that burden on Grant's shoulders becomes even heavier. How much does Grant's draft stock take a hit if he struggles to produce as the number one offensive threat and NBA scouts have an extra season to pick apart his flaws?
On the other hand, Grant would definitely benefit from another year in college to improve his outside shooting. His field goal percentage jumped from 46 percent as a freshman to nearly 50 percent as a sophomore, but the most dramatic improvement came at the free throw line, as Grant went from 56 percent to 67 percent.
Standing at 6-foot-8 and 210 pounds, Grant would need to be more of an outside threat as an NBA small forward, but he does not have the size to battle pro power forwards every night. Grant only took five three-point attempts the entire 2013-14 season, missing all of them.
He may never become a threat from the three-point line, but Grant does need to find some consistency in his midrange game to keep the defense honest, similar to how Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin has evolved his game from a dunk machine to more of an all-around threat (but also still a dunk machine).
But a quality jumper is not what had NBA scouts drooling early in the season. Grant possesses elite athleticism that led to several highlight reel put-backs. Coaches can do all the drills they want, but they cannot teach a more than 40-inch vertical and a wingspan most seven footers enjoy.
Another former Syracuse player comes to mind when thinking about Grant's pro prospects: Hakim Warrick.
Although Warrick played four years of college basketball and averaged more than 20 points per game in his senior season at ‘Cuse, the same concerns NBA teams had about him come up with Grant. Converting those weaknesses into strengths will be a process, and the team that selects Grant will be well aware of that fact.
There is a good chance Grant spends time in the development league to polish his raw game, but it will be years down the road before it can accurately be determined if he was a hit or miss pick. It is expected Grant will go in the mid-to-late first round of the NBA Draft on June 26.