The Best Shot Creator in the NBA Draft: Talking with Charleston’s Grant Riller
The 2020 NBA Draft is much different than years past given the fact that there’s no clear cut top pick or superstar talents. However, this year’s draft will provide a lot of players that can be of service to competing teams. There are a ton of players that could range from an acceptable lottery pick to the late 20’s of the first round.
While looking at the potential first round picks, one player that stood out to me is College of Charleston Guard, Grant Riller. Grant is one of the more “NBA ready” players and in my opinion, probably the best shot creator in this draft.
Riller’s draft stock is rising as many scouts and analysts begin to pick apart his game. Sure, there are going to be knocks on his opponent’s talent level but he has proven with his in-game play that he has the talent to compete at an NBA level. Scoring almost 22 points per game last season, Riller has an innate ability to score.
Grant Riller is the most talented driver in this class.
He uses changes of pace, a manipulative handle, ambidextrous finishing and masterful body control to thrive as a finisher: pic.twitter.com/Ua4RYfNjaN
— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) June 17, 2020
I was able to talk to Grant and take a further look into him both as a play and also, a person. Riller did not have a smooth start when he arrived at Charleston in 2015. He tore his left ACL and was out for the season. The ACL tear didn’t slow down his determination and ended up teaching him much more about patience.
“I think it slowed me down a ton. In High School, I was expected to play right away just as I was Coach Grant’s first recruiting class, so I knew I had the opportunity to kind of play right away. But once that kind of happened, it kind of made me think outside the box about my career and where I want to go. Obviously, you know once you tear your ACL you’ll be out six months, so
I’m assuming you can kind of feel sorry for yourself or try to get back to where you were and try to be better. So that’s what I was trying to do. I had tons of support from Charleston, family, and all types of people that kept me going. At the end of the day, I got to work on my body a ton. Coming out of high school, I think one of the biggest notches on me was my size. I was about a buck 60 coming into college. After I tore my ACL I got to work a lot with our strength coach, who was really good, I got to put 20 pounds of my body on before even playing a college game. So I think that was huge. And then the most important part was just being able to sit on the sidelines and really watch the game from a college standpoint and really try to learn the ins and outs of the game as much as I could. I think that year was huge for my development”
This mindset was incredible for Riller and allowed him to mature at a much faster rate than other players. While sidelined with the injury, Riller used his time off the court to mentally fine-tune his game for his return. Through the years at Charleston, Grant has grown both on and off the court and his game has progressed immensely, which should provide an easy transition into the NBA.
I am comfortable saying that Grant Riller has some of the quickest footwork on side-steps I've ever seen, if not the quickest. He really explodes off his inside foot creating a lot of room for the jumper pic.twitter.com/9jfpWJBomB
— Spencer (@SKPearlman) July 6, 2020
“I think it’ll translate pretty well. I’m a guy that can play the right way so I don’t need tons of dribbles to get my shot off. I can do a lot with not that many shots. I think stuff like that translates from a guards spot. That’s something I’ve done all my life, it’ll be tougher at first. But that just goes back to what I said about the speed of the game. I’m just getting comfortable with it, and then kind of pick my spots from there. But I think overall, I’m a guy that can create for himself but at the same time And still, play the right way and do more with less dribbles.”
With 1st round potential, his play-style has drawn comparisons to Toronto Raptors Guard Fred Van Vleet. Riller sees the comparisons as well and is fond of them. I asked Riller about the comparisons and what areas of his game are the most relatable to Van Vleet.
“I think just being able to play both guard spots. Fred is just a little undersized but at the same time, he played well off-ball. He’s also a good catch and shoot guy which I feel like I have the ability to do as well. And then he’s just so good in the pick and roll. He plays at a good pace. He makes all the right basketball plays, which I feel like we share as well. And then at the end of the day, he still kind of creates his own shot. He’s a smaller guy who still can get into the paint and has all types of finishes. So I think people see some of that and then also coming from not a high major school and then you kind of see the resemblance I think that is a good comparison I like Fred a lot.”
Pick and Roll is a major part of modern basketball and Riller had an opportunity to work on that for several years in school. His big man at Charleston is current Utah Jazz forward Jarrell Brantley and they formed a great dynamic that helped Grant add to his game.
“It will help me a ton especially with Jarrell with how versatile he is. He pops some and he rolls some. So I got tons of reps with that and like I said Charleston taught me how to play with other good players as well and that’s all there is at the next level playing with all types of talent around you and I feel like I could mesh with anybody. I think I showed that in the past.”
No transition is completely smooth from the NCAA to the NBA. The game changes in many ways. There will always be things you can’t fully prepare for. The speed of the game is much different and will pose a new threat to adjust to.
“I think the speed of the game is such a different game compared to college. Just the way they are at certain things. The personnel, obviously I think just the speed of the game that’s such a big difference at each level. So I think just getting comfortable with the speed of the game and making sure I’m always playing at my pace. I’m definitely gonna be adjusting I’ll have to make but something I’m excited for”
Although many challenges are ahead of him there have been many helping him prepare and it starts with Charleston. Grant had nothing but great things to say about his former college.
Really like what I saw from Grant Riller against Northeastern from January. He had 20-10-10 & 4 steals with 7 turnovers on 7/17 shooting. His ability to get to the rim is almost unmatched in this class. Excellent slasher, good passer & developed J shown in this video. +1 steal pic.twitter.com/jGEkvIicmX
— Mavs Draft (@MavsDraft) June 7, 2020
“Coming into a Mid-Major school. You don’t have the pressure to be one and done. So my thought, when I was coming in, was, I will have four years to try to get as good as I possibly can and try to make the league, which was my dream at the time. Just over the time there I got comfortable. I had a great relationship with the head coach, Coach Grant. He put me in a great position to succeed and it was a great experience I learned so much. I grew up there not only as a basketball player but as a man. I think it was probably some of the best four years of my life.”
They also weren’t the only ones in his corner. Lamar Stevens of Penn State and Grant share the same representation in Scott Nichols of Rize Management. Both of them have been a great help to Grant while training in the off-season.
“I just met Lamar a couple of weeks ago but it’s been great. We relate in a lot of other areas and he was a senior as well so we share that old head mentality in a sense. But I think Scott has been great. He’s been putting us in situations to succeed, he’s been taking the pressure off so all we have to do is hold our part and work as hard as we can, which we’ve been doing and we’ll see what the future holds for both of us.”
A major knock on Grant’s game is on the defensive side of the ball. Although it might not be easy to see through stats and film, there have been major improvements on that end through his college career.
— Charleston Basketball (@CofCBasketball) March 4, 2018
“I get a lot of questions about my defensive ability. And I think if you just look over the years, I think you can see my growth on that and as far as me seeing guys’ spots, and being good off the ball and taking charges. I think that’s a big part of who I am. I kind of developed that over the years. So I think if you watch the tape, you can see some growth in that area.”
With the current state of the NBA resuming play from inside the bubble at Walt Disney World, Riller has been paying attention to the games and taking note of what he can implement himself.
“I watched a lot of the top guards. So obviously Dame right now is displaying unbelievable, I just watched how they carry themselves. So I think Dame is a perfect guy to look at as a guard. He plays at his own pace. He’s always composed. Also just watching how certain guys carry themselves. That’s definitely what I’m trying to take from them.”
With the seeding games wrapping up in Disney and the lottery coming in a week, there will be more eyes focusing on the NBA draft. Expect the name Grant Riller to be someone who continues to rise up the boards. He is a high-quality player, but also a high-quality person.