When Damian Lillard’s heartbreaking buzzer-beater ended the Thunder’s season, it was not expected to be the end of an era in Oklahoma City Thunder. They still had All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Paul George, and the season wasn’t anything close to a miserable failure. Fast-forward to today, however, and the Thunder are an entirely different team.
Among the casualties of the offseason who were let go by the Thunder was Jerami Grant, who went to the Nuggets amidst everything. Grant has no hard feelings, however, and spoke candidly about the situation.
The Thunder’s offseason
The entire course of the NBA shifted when Kawhi Leonard announced his intentions to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers. An unexpected twist was the fact that the Oklahoma City Thunder had agreed to send Paul George to the Clippers as a contingency to the deal. Although George agreed to a multi-year deal with the Thunder just one year earlier, when Kawhi arrived, he put in his desire for a trade to Los Angeles.
That left the Thunder with two options. First, they could move forward with Westbrook and hope for a recreation of his MVP season and try to build around him in the process. Second, they could consider it a full reboot and get rid of Westbrook, the last remaining member of the Thunder’s young Finals team. When Chris Paul became available, the Thunder pounced and offered to take on his deal for a group of assets that the Rockets gladly accepted.
One thing that gets lost in rebuilds, however, is how it affects the players who are not necessarily stars. Trades always focus on the biggest names, but it often the case that far more role players are affected by the deal either as a sweetener for the bigger star or as a cap-related addition. Jerami Grant was one of those pieces that moved after the Paul George deal, but he has no hard feelings in the process.
Jerami Grant’s move to Denver
Jerami Grant had a career-year last season. He started 77 of his 80 games and averaged nearly 14 points per game along with five rebounds. By moving to the Nuggets, he is going to a team that, even without the Westbrook and George moves, is in a better place than Oklahoma City. It could be the move that was good for both him and his career.
With so much uncertainty in the days following George’s departure, Grant likened his departure to getting out of a sinking ship in an interview with The Denver Post. Although he was a large contributor for the Thunder last year, Grant welcomes the question marks surrounding his role on a stacked Denver Nuggets team.
Grant’s role in Denver will require some adjustment on the part of Grant, however. Following a rather stagnant offense in Oklahoma City, the Nuggets offense is a free-wheeling offense that is less dependent on running the ball through one or two players than Oklahoma City. Instead, the Nuggets move the ball through everyone with the hopes that they land the best shot.
“I’m extremely excited to play in an offense like this,” Grant said. “You never know who is going to get the ball.”
A tale of two teams
Grant highlights something bigger in the NBA than just his transition and these two teams. His bridge from Oklahoma City to Denver takes him from the dying remnants of a once-promising team and brings him to a team that has more in common with the Thunder a decade earlier when Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and James Harden were believed to be the makings of a new dynasty in the NBA.
The Thunder may be in a full rebuild, with Chris Paul’s long-term role on the team in question. Meanwhile, Jerami Grant may get to experience another rise on one of the NBA’s most exciting young teams. It just goes to show how quickly things can change in the NBA and how potential isn’t always enough to get a team to the ultimate goal of a championship.