The Portland Trail Blazers continue to outperform expectations, with each key player performing well in their given role. For most, this means a continuation of year-to-year growth in Portland, but, for forward Jerami Grant, it means finding something new.
Grant has had several stops in his career – including Philadelphia and Oklahoma City early on – but did not begin to really flourish until he made it to the Denver Nuggets in 2019. Following a breakout season, he signed a large contract with the Detroit Pistons to take on an even larger role. There, he anchored the offense until being traded to the Trail Blazers last summer.
One could argue that, even in his best years, Grant’s offensive usage was suboptimal – a notion retired NBA player JJ Redick explored on his podcast The Old Man and the Three on Saturday:
“I don’t know if it was Nate Jones but it was somebody on Twitter tweeted this out. Jerami Grant was underutilized in the Denver offense, overutilized — essentially not in a perfect role, probably a role that was a little too large for him — in Detroit, and, to me, he’s sort of in that perfect slot, offensively. You know, 10-15 shots a game, he’s a tertiary creator […] and he’s been efficient this year. And I like him in this role.”
Playing in Portland has yielded some interesting statistical notes for Grant. While his usage is down, his efficiency is way up, and, thus, his overall production has yet to taper. From the 2021-22 season to the 2022-23 season, Grant’s field goal percentage has increased from 42.6 to 49.7, and his three-point percentage has increased from 35.8 to 46.0. And while shot attempts are down, his scoring average has actually increased as well, from 19.2 to 20.7 points per game.
The sustainability of these numbers is fair to question, but we are 12 games in and Grant looks fantastic each night. It is no surprise to see his efficiency rise when playing as his team’s third option instead of its first.
So, what does this mean for the Trail Blazers? Only good things. Grant was brought in primarily for his defensive prowess, so to see high-level, efficient scoring on the other end as a tertiary piece is a huge, albeit unanticipated bonus. And it could be especially important in the playoffs, should Portland arrive there as Redick expects.
“If you look at their wing depth in 2018, it was Moe Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu. Those guys really couldn’t shoot the basketball. They get to the playoffs and they’re doubling Dame [Lillard], they’re doubling CJ [McCollum], and they’re leaving those guys open. And they tried to add more shooting and Dame gets hurt last year and they really had sort of hit a rut. And they’ve rebuilt with guys like Jerami Grant […] I mean, Jerami Grant is shooting almost five threes a game and is hitting 44 percent of his threes.”
The Trail Blazers now stand at 9-4 after a tough loss to the Dallas Mavericks — a loss that saw a season-high 37 points from Grant. He was so hot that at one point late in the fourth, Dallas doubled him, leaving Lillard wide open for three. This is the sort of thing Portland never had with non-shooting wings: a perfect fit.