For the last two weeks, the Portland Trail Blazers have employed a flurry of trades, signings, and draft picks to rebuild their roster in preparation for the 2022-23 NBA season. If you haven’t been paying careful attention you could be forgiven for missing out on some of the details. Even if you have, it’s time to take a deep breath, recap, and reset.
Over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, we’re going to break down Portland’s moves so far this summer, examining each in detail, bringing you up to date and teasing out the significance of each transaction.
We’ll start with Portland’s most splashy move so far, trading for Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant.
The Transaction: Blazers acquire 6’8, 210 lb, 28-year-old power forward Jerami Grant from the Detroit Pistons.
What it Cost: A trade exception, a 2025 first-round draft pick originally owned by the Milwaukee Bucks, a 2025 second-round pick, and two second-round pick swaps in Detroit’s favor.
NBA Reaction: Mostly positive, with grades ranging from the B-zone to A’s.
The Stats: 19.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 42.6 FG%, 35.8 3PT% in 31.9 mpg over 47 appearances (2021-22)
What Portland Gained
The Blazers acquired Grant—a legitimate starter and fellow member of Team USA with Portland guard Damian Lillard—for a bargain basement price. They’re going to be banking on his defense. He has a good motor and can venture out on the perimeter without getting burned...a characteristic missing from several forwards the Blazers have tried to plug in beside Lillard in the past.
Grant’s emergence as an offensive player over the last two seasons has piqued interest. Before 2021-22, he never averaged more than 13.6 points in a season. In 2021-22, he shot up to 22.3 points, following it up with 19.2 last season.
Combine scoring potential with defensive aptitude, and Grant might easily become the best power forward to play in Portland since LaMarcus Aldridge left in 2015. After years of machinations, the Blazers might have plugged that gap in the rotation for the price of a minor future first-rounder. That would be quite a coup.
Every team Grant has played for has acknowledged his abilities. None of them has kept him, though. He’s not stayed in one place more than two and a half seasons.
This is significant because Grant is also in the final year of his current contract, paying him $21 million. He’ll be looking for a longer deal, and likely a raise. Portland is not only in the driver’s seat to give it to him, it’s all but expected. The only “out” would be a serious injury or the complete failure of this rebuilt lineup before the extension comes due. The Blazers are about to shell out more money, for a longer period, than anyone ever has to Grant. They don’t have a secondary plan. They don’t have a way to replace him. This has to work.
Grant’s defense will probably hold up, if nothing else under the category of, “Better than most power forwards were able to sustain in Portland.” Whether his offense will live up to the billing remains to be seen. His shooting percentages aren’t special. He flourished when the Pistons went into free fall and he was able to create without much competition or interference in the offense. That’s not going to be true of a lineup with Lillard, Anfernee Simons, and even Jusuf Nurkic playing alongside him.
Grant’s rebounding, steals, and blocks numbers are also low for a power forward, particularly one prized for defense. He may put extra strain on Nurkic to sweep up boards. Underline that if the Blazers have to go small at the three-spot as well. If you can’t stop shots from going up, rebounding becomes the period at the end of the defensive sentence. The Blazers won’t prosper from a series of obnoxious run-ons instead.
Grant’s edges will need to be honed and his game further developed if he’s to fit seamlessly into the space the Blazers have open for him. That’s absolutely possible—maybe even likely—but it’s going to take work on the part of all parties and success is not guaranteed.
The Blazers got better with this move, or at least they have serious potential to. Grant wasn’t part of that gold-medal-winning squad with Lillard for nothing. Dame’s seal of approval means a ton.
The low initial price made the exchange a no-brainer. Portland retained enough other assets to build further, a critical part of the overall strategy.
That said, the Blazers didn’t buy themselves a spot in the NBA Finals, or even the Western Conference Finals, with this deal. They bought themselves a chance to build further with increased hopes of those moves bringing real success instead of just rah-rah rallying. That’s exactly what they needed to do. It was probably the maximum they could reasonably expect. As such, it was a solid opening play to the summer.
A big draft day...