No, Grant Jerrett isn't beginning his pro career in the NBA. But no, it's not that the team that traded for his rights, the Oklahoma City Thunder, doesn't want him. It's true that the Thunder didn't sign the former Arizona Wildcats forward to a contract, but it's by design.
Jerrett, whose rights are owned by Oklahoma City, is expected to be drafted first by the Thunder's D-League affiliate, the Tulsa 66ers. DraftExpress' Jonathan Givony said the 66ers moved up via trade to draft Jerrett, which will make the Thunder staff able to keep the forward's development on its terms. Before the trade, Keith Schlosser of Ridiculous Upside detailed why Jerrett's fate was up in the air.
Upon the big man entering the D-League, the Thunder will still retain Jerrett's rights. That's the obvious and easy part, but after that, it gets tricky. Because his name is in the minor league draft player pool, the Arizona product can actually be selected by any of the NBADL's seventeen teams. The caveat to such a selection would be that regardless of which affiliate Jerrett is drafted by, the Thunder are the only NBA team for which he could go on to play for this season, should he eventually be called up. They have his rights, and that's that.
That said, the 66ers have to actually draft Jerrett with one of their selections on Friday night if they want him to don such a uniform. The question remains, will another team do so before they have the opportunity?
Now, it seems the question has been answered. And the answer means Oklahoma City sees a bright future with Jerrett. Givony told the Arizona Daily Star's Bruce Pascoe that it's a good move for the team and the player. While Jerrett will take a hit financial by being paid D-League scraps, it shows he's truly committed to developing himself.
"A lot of players won't agree to do that because he's going to make D-League money," Givony said. "But it's a huge advantage for him because he gets to be developed by the best development team in the NBA. It's like if he were still at Arizona, but he'll get to play more, have good coaches and he gets paid and doesn't have to go to school. He can focus on basketball."
I tend to agree. Very strongly. Jerrett won't be hindered by playing behind Aaron Gordon, and this summer he took major steps forward compared to Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski and the rest of the Wildcats who were hurt by the usual NCAA practice restrictions. While they were working out, Jerrett was playing against professionals in the NBA Summer League, where in four games in Orlando he averaged 10.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per outing while hitting 10-of-20 three-point shots.
In the end, this wasn't about draft stock or the money. Argue that Jerrett should have returned to Arizona, and I say you're saying it selfishly -- the Wildcats would be better with him -- or you're implying he shouldn't be able to do what he's successfully doing now, becoming a professional athlete. Jerrett's decision to take a D-League contract rather than an NBA one shows he's committed to fighting for an NBA job the right way.
The thing is this; Grant Jerrett did what he thought was best for him to become a better basketball player. His dream is realized. He's a pro.
And his decisions weren't based on shortcuts. At Arizona or otherwise, Jerrett would have had to grow up, beat the odds, grow into his body, develop his skillset and get lucky breaks. With the D-League, he's truly saying he won't take shortcuts. He's going through with the difficult process of "making it" and he's doing it the most blatantly obvious way that has already publicly backfired.
But it's the right way that includes hard work, even if nobody has done it on this route before.