Grant Riller: Guard, College of Charleston
- 6’3”, 190 pounds, 23 years old, from Ocoee, Florida
- 2019-2020 season: 31 games, 33.5 minutes per game, 21.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 50% from the field, 36% from three, 83% from the foul line
- ACCOLADES: 3-time All-CAA first-team, 2018 CAA tournament MVP
- ADVANCED STAT STRENGTHS (per Tankathon): 61 TS%, 55 eFG%, PER: 30.6
- ADVANCED STAT AREA TO GROW: Assist-to-turnover ratio (1.26)
- CURRENT BIG BOARD RANKINGS: 46th (Tankathon), 37th (Ringer), 45th (CBS Sports), 39th (ESPN), 37th (The Athletic)
If you take a look at any NBA mock draft, you will almost always find Grant Riller as a selection somewhere in the second round. And in a draft that appears to be quite short on guaranteed star-power, I find that absolutely absurd. Not only should Riller be a first round pick, but there’s even an argument to be made that he should go in the lottery.
However, why Riller isn’t projected as highly as he should be isn’t surprising. As a player, he combines two characteristics that NBA executives do not care for when evaluating prospects: he’s an older four-year player (not counting his redshirt season), and he played for a mid-major in a conference that most casual basketball fans have never heard before.
But if league executives are willing to look past Riller’s exterior that may not fit the exact mold of what they’re looking for, they will find that he is perhaps the best overall three-level shotmaker in his class and that he brings a skill-set that is a perfect fit for the modern NBA. Whether it was Brandon Clarke or Dillon Brooks, I have always been high on accomplished and talented four-year college players that bring NBA-ready skill sets, and Grant Riller is no exception.
What he does well
In an NBA draft that is full of intriguing guards, Riller is the most complete and developed scorer among them. He has little to no weaknesses as far as his overall offensive game is concerned and regularly pressures defenses from almost every area of the court.
Perhaps the most premier part of Riller’s offensive skill-set is his ability to shoot off the dribble, a must for any offensively-minded guard in the NBA. He ranked in the 82nd percentile on shots-off-the-dribble in college basketball this past season, converting them at a 42% clip. Much of his success in this area of his game can be attributed to his superb ball-handling, as he is able to use a combination of hesitations and double-crossovers to create space for his feathery jumper (both from mid-range and the three-point line). Shooting off the dribble from the guard position is so important in the NBA because the gravity that it provides increases the spacing for other players on offense. So not only will Riller will thrive in this area of the game in the NBA, but he will also help his teammates succeed as well.
Riller also used his elite ball-handling and combination of explosive verticality and a quick first step to become one of the best finishers around the basket in the country. He has remarkable touch around the basket, demonstrated by the fact that he ranked in the 88th percentile in finishing around the basket, converting 63% of his attempts. He has a strong frame that enables him to finish through contact with relative ease, which will make his transition to the NBA easier for him than it is for some.
Add in the fact that he can play off the ball (he shot 50% on spot-up threes) as well as he can on the ball (he ranked in the 97th percentile for points out of pick-and-rolls), and you can safely consider Grant Riller to be one of the more polished guard prospects in recent years.
Where he can improve
The two biggest areas of improvement for Grant Riller as a professional will be his defense and his passing. And these two areas of improvement are intrinsically linked for him specifically.
If Rillher had a somewhat significant issue in college, it was that he turned the ball over too much (3.1 turnovers per game) and didn’t generate enough assists to truly compensate for his carelessness (only 3.9 assists per game). Of course, a high turnover rate in a vacuum can be a positive indicator for a point guard’s future in the NBA since it denotes high usage and a higher level of aggressiveness.
However, he has not demonstrated enough of a consistent comfort level as a playmaker in pick-and-roll situations to be a point guard on a permanent basis in the NBA. That’s not to say that he can’t get there as a passer, but it is definitely an area of improvement if he is to play point guard, which will be the most ideal position for him in the NBA considering his size (6’3”).
And if he is able to improve his passing to the point where he can consistently play point guard, it will only improve his match-ups for him defensively in the NBA since he could just mainly defend other opposing point guards. In a vaccum, Riller has the tools with his solid lateral quickness and strong frame to be an effective defender in the league. But it’s unclear whether he will be since his effort level generally left a lot to be desired in college.
I think Riller will at least be passable defensively in the NBA. Ja Morant at Murray State was another example of a player who had the physical tools to be good defensively but was also lackluster on that end because of the burden he had to carry in his offensive role. I doubt that Riller will be as effective as Morant was this year as a rookie, but his effort level will probably improve once he joins the professional ranks.
This is where it gets dicey as far as the Memphis Grizzlies are concerned. Riller very well may be on the board when the Grizzlies have the 40th pick, so this is a very relevant question.
I project Riller as a high-end role player that could eventually grow into the successor to Lou Williams—that’s one heck of a player. And it’s also *prepares hot-take cannon* a player that I think will be better than De’Anthony Melton in the future.
If the Grizzlies draft Riller, he will immediately get minutes in the second unit, regardless of whatever roster decisions they make in the coming months. However, the selection of Riller could make Melton that much more expendable in contract talks this summer (fall?). Riller could immediately step in and provide a scoring punch that no one in the Grizzlies’ second unit can currently provide.
To put it simply, Grant Riller might be the overall most impressive scorer and shooter in this draft, and those are skills that are not only what the Grizzlies need, but the most valuable skills that an NBA guard can have. He would also be able to thrive next to Ja Morant as well as he would Tyus Jones, and he could fill in as the backup point guard as needed.
Grant Riller is a lottery-level talent that could very well be available for the Grizzlies at 40. Don’t let his age and mid-major status fool you; he’s an accomplished and polished guard that brings a skill-set that will allow him to thrive in the modern NBA. It’s not worth overthinking: if he is available at 40, then the Grizzlies should select him, barring some other extraordinary circumstance.