The Portland Trail Blazers never indulged the rumors propagating their apparent interest in Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant before the Feb. 10 NBA trade deadline. But they don’t seem ready to drop their pursuit of Grant.
The Blazers have already raised the white flag of surrender for the 2021-22 campaign after ruling Damian Lillard out for the remainder of the season. They continue to play their young guys and prepare for a summer of activity.
Portland’s retool has already begun. The Blazers did well to acquire Josh Hart in the CJ McCollum trade. Though he’s currently sidelined with a knee injury, Anfernee Simons made some defensive gains to complement his massive offensive leap. Moreover, the team should have multiple first-round picks. It will keep the lottery-protected selection it owes Chicago and could ultimately receive the New Orleans Pelican’s first-round choice obtained in the McCollum deal.
It’s not unreasonable to suggest the Blazers could reinvigorate their contender status with a strong offseason. But Portland seems unusually intent on pursuing Grant. Doing so would be a mistake that could end the retool in Rip City before it even had a chance to truly begin.
The Blazers are reportedly expected to “seriously pursue” Jerami Grant
The Pistons surprised some around the league when they elected to retain Grant at the trade deadline.
Part of the decision might stem from Grant reportedly trying to dictate where he landed. But Detroit seems to have at least some interest in trying to possibly negotiate an extension with the versatile forward, as well. If the Pistons listen to trade offers, the Blazers will again show interest.
Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that Portland is expected to “seriously pursue” Grant in the offseason. The 28-year-old is still under contract through the 2022-23 season but is also eligible to sign a four-year, $112 million extension in the summer.
Grant fits the mold of the player Blazers general manager Joe Cronin tends to like. He’s a guy who can defend multiple positions and score at all three levels. He’s also made gains as a guy who can get to the cup off the bounce, with his free-throw attempts rising to 6.0 per game in almost two full seasons with the Pistons.
Still, pursuing Grant wouldn’t be worth the cost. That’s true in multiple facets.
Why would Portland give up valuable capital in loaded draft class?
Charania reported that the Blazers will “explore” trading the Pelicans pick in a package for Jerami Grant if it conveys between the No. 5 and No. 14 spots in the 2022 NBA Draft. That’s showing questionable judgment.
This upcoming draft class is loaded. It is arguably as strong as 2021, which is proving to be one of the better classes in recent memory. Possibly armed with two high draft selections, the Blazers have plenty of options.
Portland could retain its picks and add two young talents in a move that bridges the gap between present and future while still retaining cap space for free agency. That’s not inconsequential.
The Blazers really don’t have a lot of promising youth on the roster, save for Anfernee Simons and Nassir Little. Even though Damian Lillard wants to win now, Portland has to accumulate young talent in preparation for the eventual transitory phase.
Alternatively, if Cronin wants to make a deal, he could package the picks in an effort to acquire an established NBA star or even try to move up the draft board.
Sure, the Blazers could still retain one of their selections and use the other to make a push for Grant. But, given the level of talent in this draft, shouldn’t the Blazers at least scour their options in the days leading up to the draft before making a rash decision and giving up a premium pick, especially for a guy who will soak up a lot of cap space?
Is Grant really worth a max extension?
The primary reason the Blazers traded CJ McCollum and Norman Powell was to create future financial flexibility. If they acquire and subsequently sign Jerami Grant, they’re digging into that flexibility.
Portland would not dare acquire Grant if it did not intend to extend him. That likely means he gets paid at least close to the $112 million for which he is eligible. Is he worth that kind of money?
Grant has shown an improved scoring ability with more usage in the Motor City. But he’s not much of a rebounder (4.0 boards per game this season) or playmaker (2.4 dimes) and, on a winning team, is probably best served as a No. 3 option. That doesn’t sound like a guy the Blazers want to pay $112 million unless they use the rest of their cap space to get a true No. 2 for Lillard. Even then, that’s a lot to pay a third option.
Portland hasn’t had this much cap freedom in years. Do they want to dig into that by signing a guy who has never made an All-Star team and likely can’t be a No. 2 before seeing whether Lillard can recruit a more established star to come to Rip City?
The Blazers cannot let their love for Grant dictate their offseason. Otherwise, the retool will be all for naught.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.