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Could Jerami Grant Become an NBA All Star This Season?

Grant’s recent play could set him up for the February showcase, but how realistic are his chances?

Portland Trail Blazers v Indiana Pacers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers are leaning heavily on a small group of veterans through the early part of the 2023-24 NBA season. Malcolm Brogdon, Deandre Ayton and Jerami Grant have shouldered the load, which was made heavier on opening night following the injury to Anfernee Simons’ right thumb.

Brogdon and Ayton have been everything expected. Shaedon Sharpe has ascended despite suffering bouts of inconsistency. But Grant has taken the lion’s share of the offense as well as taking on key defensive assignments.

The almost 30-year-old has been the model of consistency since getting his shot at a premier role with the Detroit Pistons in 2020. Said consistency has yet to yield him an NBA All Star nod, despite him averaging more than 19 points over the past three-plus seasons.

Grant did, however, earn a Team USA jersey in 2021, winning a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics alongside Damian Lillard, which led to his arrival in Portland 12 months later. This led to him earning a lucrative five year, $160 million contract last summer.

This season, Grant is averaging a career-best 23.4 points (24th league-wide) on 42.6 percent from three, 4.0 boards, 1.5 assists and 1.1 blocks. Numbers not necessarily foreign to his All Star peers, though his lack of playoff familiarity has likely hamstrung previous chances.

While probably not the deciding factor in his lack of All-Star selections, Grant’s anemic rebounding rate may have turned voters off ticking his name. Others might not appreciate his iso-heavy style. Though unattractive to some, this young Blazers team has needed his offense on a nightly basis.

Grant's footwork and gazelle-like strides mask a genuine explosiveness, which has been useful for making his way to the rim. Just ask Zion Williamson.

On defense, Grant's ridiculous 7’2 wingspan counteracts any disadvantage his 6’8 height presents against bigs allowing him to guard more than 90 percent of opponents.

Where he stands

Grant is the Blazers' offensive leader, which has been made more apparent in Anfernee Simons’ absence these past few weeks. Among NBA forwards (small and power), Grant’s 42.6 percent three point rate ranks 14th, including 22nd from non-corner threes (43 percent).

The 29-year-old ranks 14th in getting to the free throw line, arriving at the stripe on 13.7 percent of his attempts while sitting 22nd in assist rate, dime-ing on 11.0 percent of teammate makes.

On defense, he ranks 14th in defending without fouling and 19th in blocks, rejecting 1.3 percent of opposing player shots.

National pundits appear to view him as a nice player on both sides of the ball. But not yet in the upper echelon of players at a position also manned by LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, Jayson Tatum, Draymond Green and Pascal Siakam.

Grant has no doubt stepped it up this year. Perhaps through increased touches and opportunity, but he’s most notably received regular Western Conference Player of the Week nominations through the first seven weeks of the season.

Typical All Star numbers

The factors that deliver an NBA player to an All Star game aren’t based solely on performance, particularly for the starting spots selected largely by fans. As Blazers supporters know all too well, smaller market teams often get overlooked by the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks supporters of the world. This leaves the coaches to pick the players actually performing at the peak of the game at the reserve spots.

The other key factor is team standing, a consideration that will make it particularly difficult for Grant to get a look in this year. The Blazers are not going to be good this season and probably next.

But for the sake of argument, let’s imagine All Star selections are made on merit. Below are three of last year’s frontcourt honorees on teams that failed to make the NBA Playoffs. The statistics encompass the 2022-23 season averages up until the All Star game.

  • Lauri Markkanen (Utah Jazz) at 23.7 points, 8.7 boards and 1.1 assists,
  • DeMar DeRozan (Chicago Bulls) with 21.3 points, 3.2 boards and 4.6 assists
  • Pascal Siakam (Toronto Raptors) with 19.9 points, 7.1 boards, 5.1 assists

That’s three players on poor-ish performing teams selected as reserves (coach’s vote) producing at a similar level to Grant. Poor team performance, though a factor, does not preclude players from making it the the annual exhibition, it just makes it harder.

Western Conference frontcourt competition

Western Conference frontcourt spots have long been tricky for new prospects. Especially with incumbents like Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets), LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers), Lauri Markkanen (Utah Jazz), Domantas Sabonis (Sacramento Kings), Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Memphis Grizzlies) and Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers).

While Markkanen and Jackson Jr. might not necessarily re-appear, we also need to consider Kevin Durant (Phoenix Suns), Kawhi Leonard (Clippers), Anthony Davis (Lakers) and maybe Rudy Gobert (Minnesota Timberwolves) and Alperen Sengun (Houston Rockets).

That’s 12 Western Conference frontcourt players in the discussion, without counting a single backcourt name. You’d have to imagine that for Grant to be in the running he would need to, at the very least, maintain his current level of output, considering the likely Blazers’ record.

Conclusion

Even when Anfernee Simons returns from injury in the next week or two, Jerami Grant will be called upon to shoulder a substantial chunk of the offensive load.

As far as the February showcase in Indiana is concerned, the chances of the fans voting the Portland forward in as a starter are all but non-existent. Grant’s best chance is the coaches, the 30 men that watch him and plan for him nightly.

Grant’s odds have definitely improved since the start of the year, but he is by no means a sure thing and a lot will have to break right for the former Syracuse standout to make the showcase for the first time.

For a Blazers franchise that has enjoyed little success over the past two seasons and is unlikely to do so for another two, it’d be a massive coup to see the rangy forward take that next step.