The Portland Trail Blazers universe is abuzz with a recent Shams Charania report that the Blazers have Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant in their sights as a possible off-season trade target. Would Grant look great in a Trail Blazers uniform? That’s the subject of today’s Blazer’s Edge Mailbag.
Jerami Grant yes! Yes? Please say yes. How do you feel about the report that we’re targeting him. I think he’s everything we need, a great defender to balance Dame and a scorer who isn’t another guard. Yes? Yes! What are your thoughts?
It all depends on how Portland’s off-season shakes out. Let’s make the assumption that they intend to rebuild around Damian Lillard and, further, that they’re confident Lillard will stay for the foreseeable future. If that’s not true, they don’t need to be trading for veterans, period, especially if the cost is draft picks. But we’re going to go with it for now because that’s most likely what the Blazers are going with.
First, let’s look at Jerami Grant in the abstract. He’s a 27-year-old swing forward, listed at 6’8 and 210 lbs. This year he’s averaging 19.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in 32.7 minutes per game. He’s played in 45 games for the Pistons this year. Last year, when he averaged 22.3 points per game, he appeared 54 times.
Grant is shooting 42.4% from the field this season with a career average of 45.2%. He’s hitting at a 35.5% rate from the three-point arc, barely above his career average of 34.8%. In 2018-19, with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Grant shot 39.2% from the arc. He shot 38.9% the following year in Denver. Those mark his career highs.
Grant is known as an apt defensive player. The analytical consensus pegs him as a very good defender with potential to be great. The asterisks are consistency, effort, and perhaps trouble guarding the league’s best players (although everyone has that “flaw” to some extent). Of note, analysis articles tend to peg Grant as a great defender in the abstract, but analysis from teams he’s played for tends to be more measured.
Grant is scheduled to make $21 million next season, the final year of his contract. He will become an unrestricted free agent in the Summer of 2023. He’s played for 4 teams in his 8-year career.
Most of Grant’s characteristics fit the Blazers. He’s in his prime. He plays forward, still a position of need. He made his reputation with defense, but he’s also become a 20-ppg scorer. His contract is reasonable given his production.
A couple things raise eyebrows.
Unless he returns to his career-high form, Grant won’t improve Portland’s three-point shooting much. These are not your older brother’s Blazers. They don’t have an overwhelming long-distance arsenal anymore. If they’re unable to spread the floor from the wings, Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons lose half of their multi-level threat potential.
Grant has flourished with a high Usage Percentage, or number of possessions taken. That’s actually a good sign for a star. But will the Blazers be viewing him as a star, or as a multi-threat, defensive complement to their starting guards, much as Josh Hart projects to be? If so, Grant may not produce the same numbers in Portland that he did his last two seasons in Detroit, where he had little competition for touches. Factor in guard dominance, add in a domino effect down to Hart and Jusuf Nurkic—who also need touches—and the fit may not be seamless. Grant is not Draymond Green in this sense.
Grant’s contract status could go either way. On the one hand, the Blazers aren’t locked into a long-term deal with him. On the other, they may want to be...or at least more than a single year. If he’s great, they’re going to want to re-sign him for bigger money. If he’s not, they have to ask why they’re sending out a lottery pick—who will presumably play at least five years for the lowest salary conceivable—for a player who’s either expensive or a single-year rental.
The best way to describe this potential move would be promising, but conditional. It’s worth a serious look, but it’s not a guarantee and it’s not the mythical “final move” to mortgage the franchise’s future on.
Here’s the scenario in which I would make a move for Grant without question: the Blazers end up with two lottery picks in this year’s draft, and getting Grant costs them one. Under no circumstances would I trade a Top 4 pick for him, but a pick in the mid-to-low lottery range along with reasonable talent going back to Detroit is a no-brainer.
Anything more, or other, than that would give me pause. This is not the right time to make an “all your eggs in one basket” move. The Blazers still need to straddle the fence between advancing and rebuilding. Retaining Grant and a lottery pick would do that well. Spending two lottery picks, a high lottery pick, or Portland’s only lottery pick would not.
Hopefully that’s enough of a “yes” for you! Grant remains a strong possibility for the Blazers. Ultimately, he’d be a good one.
Thanks, Leonard! You can send your mailbag questions to blazersub@gmail,com and we’ll see if we can answer them!