PHOENIX — If what people say is true and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, then sophomore small forwards Jerami Grant of Syracuse and Glenn Robinson III of Michigan may already be a step ahead of their fellow draft hopefuls.
Basketball is in their blood, literally.
Grant is the son of Harvey Grant, an 11-year NBA veteran. His uncle is Horace Grant, who spent 17 seasons in the league. Both father and uncle were first-round selections.
Robinson’s father, Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson, was the No. 1 overall pick in 1994 as college basketball’s consensus Player of the Year and went on to play 11 years in the NBA.
“Enjoy every moment of it. You don’t get it back,” said Robinson of the advice his father gave him ahead of the pre-draft process.
At 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds, Robinson has the prototypical size and athleticism for an NBA wing player.
“He shoots it with ease,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said after Tuesday’s workout.
Robinson, however, saw many of his numbers drop from his freshman to sophomore season. He went from shooting 57.2 to 48.8 percent from the field and 32.4 to 30.6 percent from three-point range.
“I think Robinson is a better shooter than his numbers indicate,” GM Ryan McDonough said. “His stroke looks good.”
Robinson, too, believes his shooting will only get better.
“I’ve been shooting the ball pretty well and that’s just my job to continue to shoot with confidence,” he said. “I have no doubt in my mind that (teams) will see that.”
Hitting the outside shot is where Grant, 6-foot-8 and 214 pounds, needs to improve the most. He was a post player at Syracuse and therefore did not get many spot-up opportunities.
“Definitely needs to get better,” he said of his stroke from the outside. “It’s improving. It’s been improving so far since I’ve been in college and it improved after the season. It definitely needs to get a lot better in order to play in the NBA, but I definitely think it’s getting there.”
Grant attempted only 20 threes, making six in his two-year career. He led his team in rebounding (6.8), ranked third in scoring (12.1) and second in steals (1.9).
“His length and athleticism are pretty freakish,” said McDonough, who mentioned Grant displayed some impressive finishes at the basket during the workout.
“The transition from the power forward to the small forward is a difficult one,” McDonough continued. “Sometimes it can take a few years. Marcus Morris is one of the few guys who have done it successfully, but he has the physical tools -— like I said the length, athleticism and bounce -— to potentially make that work.”
NBA bloodlines, however, will only carry Grant and Robinson so far.
“We try to evaluate each guy on his own merits,” McDonough said. “I think one of the advantages is probably more off the court and dealing with (the media). They’ve been kind of in the spotlight their whole life. I think they’re more accustomed to this. This is kind of what they’ve been doing their whole life. I think that helps them, but on the court it really doesn’t matter. When the ball goes up all that kind of peripheral stuff goes away.”
Grant and Robinson were two of the six players the Suns worked out, joining New Mexico power forward Cameron Bairstow, Memphis point guard Joe Jackson, Connecticut point guard Shabazz Napier and St. Joseph small forward Ronald Roberts, Jr.
Napier is one of the few seniors in this 2014 draft class who could hear his name called in the first round on June 26.
“The four years gave me the most experience that I can actually say that no one else has in this draft. I was there through the good times and the rough times,” he said of winning two national championships and a one-year postseason ban as a result of the program’s low Academic Progress Rate scores. “I’ve seen a lot. I dealt with a lot. As a point guard, you’re the general on the court. You can emphasize whether you win games or lose games so you experience a lot. That’s the biggest thing, I think, I have.”
Added McDonough, “We place a value on winning. Of the guys in the draft, he’s probably one of the most ready to come in and make an impact right away.”