The Portland Trail Blazers will enter the 2022-23 season with renewed hope, courtesy of a returning Damian Lillard, a re-signed Jusuf Nurkic and Anfernee Simons, and a brand new power forward in Jerami Grant. While the others are (somewhat) known qualities, Grant is a wholly new element to the team. His pivot-point presence is the subject of today’s Blazer’s Edge Mailbag.
I read Adrian’s article about Christmas record and thought it was interesting. I wonder what you think the turning point will be this year? I don’t mean record or date like he did but how will we know that we’re doing good or how it’s going?
The Blazers will face plenty of questions as they progress through the season. We’ll get to those another time. But as far as a single barometer, you need look no farther than their relationship with Grant.
On the court, Grant’s difference-making potential is obvious. The Blazers got him as THE move of their 2022 off-season. He’s the culmination of them trading away CJ McCollum, Norman Powell, and other veterans last season. He’s not expected to replace them all in aggregate, but he has to play a significant role. Other than Gary Payton II, Grant is the only major veteran acquisition the team has made in a year and a half. He has to show big.
The need gets magnified when you consider Grant is the only viable starting power forward on the team. Nassir Little and Trendon Watford could fill in, but the Blazers don’t want to face 82 games with that duo platooning at the four. If Grant doesn’t come through, the alternatives aren’t pretty...at least when you consider Portland’s lofty goal of proving they can contend.
Grant will also become a barometer off the court. He’s in the final year of his contract. He’ll be looking for a raise and extended security come summer. At a certain point, the decision should become obvious. It’s almost to the point you can check your own gut to figure it out.
If re-signing Grant to an expensive deal seems like a good idea, ideally a no-brainer, the Blazers are doing well. If serious doubt surrounds the issue—if you’re saying, “No way!” or making desperation grabs at “not losing him for nothing”—the year is not going as planned.
Obviously watching the Blazers’ signals about Grant’s contract will be critical as well.
So there you have it, Peter. It should be simple. Watch Jerami Grant’s production and ask yourself how you feel about four more years of having him in uniform. That’ll tell you everything you need to know about how your favorite team is doing.
Thanks for the question! You all can send yours along to firstname.lastname@example.org whenever you’d like and we’ll try to answer!