At the 2015 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks acquired one of the most tantalizing prospects in the world: Kristaps Porzingis. A 7’3″ power forward who can shoot the lights out, Porzingis has been a constant source of extraordinary hype.
Not enough has been said about the other player New York acquired on draft night: Jerian Grant.
Grant was a genuine college basketball superstar for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. A 6’5″ point guard who does just about everything on the court, Grant led Notre Dame to the 2015 ACC Tournament Championship and was named a Consensus First Team All-American.
Now a member of the NBA, Grant opted to swap his No. 22 Notre Dame jersey for a No. 13 Knicks uniform.
It’s an established and known fact that Grant chose No. 13 to honor former Knicks point guard Mark Jackson.
The last tidbit of Hahn’s tweet is a bit more juicy.
With the point guard position essentially undecided, Grant is setting his sights high—both as it pertains to the Knicks and the NBA. Not only is he looking to secure the role of starting point guard, but he’s gunning for Rookie of the Year.
With more passes like this, he could follow directly in Jackson’s footsteps.
Jackson won Rookie of the Year in 1988. He did so by averaging 10.6 assists and 2.5 steals per game—the only instance in NBA history of a first-year player averaging at least 10.0 assists, per Basketball-Reference.com.
Grant’s approach during the preseason suggests he could be aiming for similar success.
Grant is a speedy playmaker who can erupt at the rim and space the floor with a solid jumper. Whenever the chance has come his way, however, he’s willingly taken on the role of a facilitator.
Jose Calderon, an excellent facilitator unto himself, appears to have the early leg up in the race for the starting point guard job. Grant, however, has been impressive—and his teammates are taking notice.
Anthony expounded upon the thought:
Even if Grant does come off the bench, it wouldn’t be unheard of for him to take home a piece of hardware other than the Rookie of the Year award.
In 2004-05, Ben Gordon became the first rookie to win Sixth Man of the Year. Emeka Okafor won Rookie of the Year that season, which could mirror Grant’s predicament with frontrunners Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns ahead of him.
Empty mantlepiece or otherwise, Grant’s competitive spirit is reminiscent of Jackson’s.
Before Jackson was a beloved announcer or a successful head coach, he was a rugged point guard whose grit matched his skill. He could make any pass, but was just as likely to beat you with his determination as he was with his skill.
Grant is hoping to follow in Jackson’s footsteps, in that regard.
A trio of preseason games is an inadequate sample size for the label of an NBA Draft steal. If one thing rings true about Grant, however, it’s that he has that same desire for greatness as Jackson.
The question is, can Grant actually win Rookie of the Year? In his own mind, he can.
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