Over the past few months reports from various different news breaking outlets such as The Athletic have covered the rapidly expanding interest in Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant across the league. We’ve heard about the reported interest from contenders, or wannabe contenders such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Atlanta Hawks, Utah Jazz, Chicago Bulls, Philadelphia 76ers, and plenty more. While there are some teams across the league that are interested, some have very little of significance to offer Detroit.
Yet there are also plenty of names being thrown around across various teams that may pique the interest of Troy Weaver, Dwane Casey, and the Detroit fanbase. Two of the most talked-about teams in the Jerami Grant trade market have been the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks. While teams such as the New York Knicks, Portland Trail Blazers, or again, the Lakers (sorry Talen Horton-Tucker) are heavily interested in acquiring Grant, they lack the juice to get a deal done in most scenarios. But the Bulls and Hawks have multiple young players and draft capital to work with, if Detroit decides they want to move Grant. There could be enough there to move the needle to acquire one of the NBA’s Most Improved Player of the Year finalists from last season.
The Hawks have a pair of young wings that, while both uniquely talented in their own regards, may not be the right pieces to make it work for Atlanta. But the Hawks need to establish a winning pattern sooner rather than later, which could apply pressure for a trade. De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish are two names that may excite Troy Weaver, even though a large contract would have to come back in that sort of deal (such as Danilo Gallinari) to make the money work.
The Bulls have Patrick Williams, someone Troy Weaver was a reported fan of throughout the 2020 NBA Draft process. Weaver was such a fan that it is likely the Pistons would have drafted him over Killian Hayes had he slipped to Detroit at seventh overall. Chicago also has Coby White, a young guard that is starting to play better in his third NBA season, establishing himself while returning from an extended injury. Pairing those two together in a package for Grant could also move the needle for the Pistons.
But what if Detroit just kept Grant? It seems like everyone on the outside has declared Grant as good as gone, but that’s not what we’ve heard from inside the organization. Yes, we’ve heard the team is open to moving him, but they aren’t moving him for a light return. There are players like Grant who are available, but only at the right price, a price that many teams either can’t or are unwilling to pay.
Trading Grant for a package involving young players and/or draft picks is a risk. Yes, guys such as Reddish and Williams are intriguing and draft picks are always valuable, but will any of those players ever be as good as Grant is now? Take Patrick Williams for example, a 6-foot-9 forward with defensive prowess and floor spacing capability. Does that player sound familiar? It should because that’s how Jerami Grant was viewed before he made the jump that started in Denver and continued in Detroit. Will the Pistons end up trading for someone that, if everything goes right in their development, grows to be the player that Grant is now?
Grant chose to come to Detroit in November of 2020. He was offered the same contract that he took with Detroit by the Denver Nuggets, a group that ended up falling just short of a trip to the NBA Finals when they lost to the eventual champion Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Grant admired that the Pistons were also led by one of the few Black general manager and head coaching duos in the league, as James Edwards III of The Athletic penned eloquently in January of last year.
Jerami Grant chose to be a Piston. He wasn’t drafted by the franchise. He was technically traded to the organization through a sign-and-trade as a technicality to help push the deal through. You can’t go back in recent history and find a player of Grant’s caliber that chose to come to Detroit through free agency. The closest equivalent is when Josh Smith signed with the Pistons in 2013 – and we know how that went. But Grant is different. Grant took a major jump upon his arrival to the Pistons. In an elevated role, Grant averaged a career-high 22.8 points and 2.8 assists per game last season to go along with 4.6 rebounds and a 43/35/85 shooting line. He finished second behind Julius Randle for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award.
This year has been a little shakier for Grant and the Pistons. They haven’t been the bad but scrappy team that was going to push their opponent for the full 48 minutes like they were last year. They’re 9-30 and Grant is hurt, out recovering from surgery on the UCL ligament in his right thumb. When he was healthy his numbers were down across the board. His points and assists per game have dropped along with his efficiency.
Grant’s numbers in and around the paint and at the rim are rather miserable. He’s shooting just 33.1% from the 3-point line and he’s taking nearly one less attempt per game this year than last. But there is more to the efficiency struggles, and the blame doesn’t lie on any one specific person.
The Pistons as a team are one of the worst shooting teams in the league. They are 29th in FG% (41.4%), 3P% (31.1%), and TS% (51.8%). It’s not just Grant that is struggling to shoot the ball well. The offense that Dwane Casey and the Pistons are running hasn’t worked this season. Grant’s isolation possession rate has jumped this season to 15.2%, up 5% from last season. He’s shooting 29.8% on isolation possessions with a 6.7% turnover rate. Last year he shot 45.2% on isolation possessions. Teams are putting their best defender on Grant and/or sending double teams, and Grant doesn’t have reliable shooters to kick out to.
It also doesn’t help that Grant hasn’t been able to play with a fully healthy squad. He has only been able to play 20 games with Cade Cunningham. Add in Killian Hayes, Detroit’s starting point guard, and the number drops to 15. Grant and Kelly Olynyk, the Pistons biggest free-agent signing of the offseason, have only played together nine times. That’s allowed the defense to really hone in on Grant who, in fairness, hasn’t adapted to the best of his abilities. He’s settled for poor shots at times, often off-the-dribble mid-range jumpers. He has lost a notch defensively as well at times, although he’s still a fine one-on-one defender and positive rim protector. He hasn’t been at his best, and that can be credited to not only himself but the roster, the strategy, and the health around him.
Grant is under contract for the rest of this season and next. There is no doubt he’ll have a strong market next summer in free agency. Some think the Pistons shouldn’t try to lock him back up on an expensive deal. He’ll be 29-years-old by then and is several years older than Cunningham and the rest of Detroit’s young core. But the Pistons are already a very young team. They’re going to add another young prospect in this year’s draft, perhaps someone like Jabari Smith Jr. or Chet Holmgren. It’s important to have a veteran presence on a rebuilding team. Grant is a veteran, has playoff experience, and is still a valuable player, more so than the likes of Cory Joseph or the recently traded Rodney McGruder. Detroit can’t roll out a rotation of 25-year-olds and under, not if they want to be considered an NBA team.
The Pistons should need to be a better team next season. Cade Cunningham will have a full season under his belt, and he’s already looking the part this year even as he battles a shooting slump. Along with a top draft pick, the Pistons will have another free agency to improve the roster. Adding talent around Grant will make life easier for him. He may not be best served as the first option in an offense, but with Cunningham, he won’t have to be. Dwane Casey should needs to adjust his offense to better fit Grant, who is better suited as a spot-up shooter, athletic cutter, and perhaps a pick-and-roll partner for Cunningham and Detroit’s other ballhandlers. Putting less pressure on him offensively would also allow him to return to his near NBA All-Defensive Team level defense.
Grant deserves a chance to play alongside a healthy Detroit roster. Olynyk is due back to the team soon, as is Frank Jackson. If the Pistons still aren’t comfortable with the results or the potential financial commitment then they can still move him in the offseason. A player of his level on that friendly of a contract will always have suitors lined up for his services.
Grant chose to come to Detroit. He has been loyal to the city, the franchise, and his teammates. He’s never been critical of the front office or his teammates. He’s improved significantly since he arrived. Detroit has a talented player that still has numerous years of impactful basketball ahead of him. The Pistons would be wise to hold on to Grant as they continue Troy Weaver’s restoration of the franchise.
All stats courtesy of NBA.com or Basketball-Reference.com.