The Portland Trail Blazers still have Jerami Grant in their sights. And when I say “still” I, of course, refer to the series of reports highlighting the Blazers’ overtures towards Grant’s employers, the Detroit Pistons, prior to last month’s trade deadline.
This week the alleged infatuation was thrust back into the spotlight with The Athletic’s Shams Charania fanning flames.
The Portland Trail Blazers are expected to seriously pursue Pistons forward Jerami Grant in the offseason, sources said. Armed with the Pelicans’ 2022 first-round draft selection, the Trail Blazers will explore offering the pick should it fall between Nos. 5 and 14 in the June draft. If the pick does not fall in that range and convey to Portland this offseason, the organization’s package falls behind competing teams that are chasing Detroit’s versatile forward. Grant is eligible for a four-year, $112 million contract extension in the offseason.
Dave Deckard highlighted Grant’s bona fides earlier this week, suggesting why the Blazers might be open to bringing Damian Lillard’s gold medal-winning teammate to Portland
If you’re asking me, the 6’8 forward makes more sense to this team than almost anything Neil Olshey executed over the past seven years. Sure, I’ll give him Anfernee Simons and Nassir Little, but Jusuf Nurkic was nothing more than a happy accident.
By dealing for Grant, you’re adding a 28-year-old two-way player in his prime to a likely core of Lillard, Simons, Little and Nurkic, supported by a bunch of athletic and engaged role players.
It’s true, Grant is yet to make an All Star team, but you could argue he was on the fringe this season before being sidelined with a right thumb injury in December.
Bringing Grant to Portland means you’re accommodating Lillard, who reportedly bonded with the veteran forward on last year’s gold medal-winning US Olympic team. Not to mention Nurkic and Josh Hart who looked pretty happy hanging out with former Syracuse standout in Detroit last week.
There may also be some sentimental appeal for Grant, born in Portland while his father Harvey represented the Blazers during the mid ‘90s.
Through eight NBA seasons, Grant has spent time with the Philadelphia 76ers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Denver Nuggets and Detroit Pistons averaging 11.4 points on 35 percent three points shooting, 3.9 boards, 1.3 assists and 1.1 blocks.
His star truly rose in his last year with the Thunder where he became a key member of a rotation that lost to the Blazers in the first round of the 2019 NBA playoffs — not exactly relevant, I just like bringing it up whenever I can.
After two years in Colorado, the second of which supplanting Paul Millsap as a starter, Grant became an in-demand free agent in 2020. With both Detroit and Denver offering three-year, $60 million contracts, Grant chose the Pistons as an opportunity for a more featured role, subsequently hiking his usage by almost 10 percent in 2020-21.
Just to be clear, Grant alone won’t be vaulting the Blazers to the top of the Western Conference standings. He is, however, the best power forward this team has had since LaMarcus Aldridge became a Spur. No offense to Al-Farouq Aminu, Robert Covington and Carmelo Anthony but it’s not even close.
The above three names did one or two things really well but were overtly insufficient in other areas. Grant can do a little bit of everything, scoring at all three levels, handling and facilitating with decent enough rebound and block rates.
Defensively he’s above average, a prerequisite for a team that fields less capable stoppers such as Lillard and Simons in the backcourt.
To the naysayers
For some reason, there are some fans who are resistant to the idea of Grant in Portland, claiming he’s more focused on himself than the team. This probably stems from his decision to leave the Nuggets for the rebuilding Pistons in order to secure a more featured role.
If you read Grant’s own rationale for leaving the Nuggets it makes a lot of sense. His relationship with Pistons General Manager Troy Weaver was also a key factor.
“It was tough,” Grant said. “I was in a situation where I was comfortable. I loved my teammates, I loved the organization. It was a lot of things that made me teeter between my decision, but at the end of the day, I made the best decision for me and my career. My growth as a player is extremely important to me. It was a challenge. The challenge intrigued me. I made my decision, and I’m happy with it.”
Mission accomplished. He's been the main guy and has been reportedly sought after by many an NBA team. If Grant is now prepared to come to Portland, he no doubt realizes he’s not going to be the number one banana. He may not even be number two with the recent rise of Anfernee Simons. But he’ll no doubt be less of a target for opposing defenses, potentially leading to a more impactful and efficient contribution on a better team.
Grant has one year and $20.9 million left on his deal, which means he could be nothing more than a one-year rental. Interesting, though, that Charania mentioned Grant’s eligibility for a four-year, $112 million contract. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me that in any deal with the Pistons, Grant will have included some sort of an agreement with Portland on an extension, which means he wants to be here.
While $112 might be at the higher end of what might be acceptable, anything up to, and including, four years, $100 million would be fine with the cap projected to rise in the next few years.
If the team eventually decides to part ways with Lillard and build around Simons, Grant’s deal could easily be jettisoned for younger players and/or draft compensation.
How does it get done?
Believe it or not, trade exceptions can actually be used. There’s no surprise that Grant’s $20.9 million contract almost matches the trade exception yielded from the New Orleans Pelicans trade, that dropped CJ McCollum in Louisiana and brought Josh Hart to Oregon.
But what do the Pistons get? Let’s return to Charania.
Armed with the Pelicans’ 2022 first-round draft selection, the Trail Blazers will explore offering the pick should it fall between Nos. 5 and 14 in the June draft.
What seems to be the major and only factor in this deal working is whether the Pelicans’ pick conveys (between selections 5 and 14). If it does, the Pistons get the pick, adding another talented rookie to the young core of Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart and Killian Hayes. Detroit also gets cap relief, allowing them to take on bad money and draft picks as they continue to rebuild.
So, for those yet to join the cheer squad, Blazers fans should be hoping for every possible Pelicans loss over the next two weeks.
The scuttlebutt surrounding Grant’s next chapter in Portland feels like more than just rumor. If the Pelicans pick conveys, I’d actually be shocked if this deal didn’t get done.
Grant is a fringe All-Star, athletic two-way forward who wants to come to Portland in his prime. When was the last time someone of that caliber was actively interested in playing home games at the Moda Center? I’ll wait.
Cronin cleaned up Portland’s salary sheet at last month’s trade deadline in order to open up opportunities to go after players like Grant this summer. Trading for Grant is the best first step in bringing this team back to relevance.