Blazers go all in
What the hell is going on? Typically this early on before the draft, the trades are evenly balanced. First, the Thunder trades the 30th pick in this year’s draft plus two future second-round picks for JaMychal Green and what will end up being a top-five protected pick after the protections become official. Then, we saw the Mavericks fleece the Rockets for Christian Wood while only giving up end-of-the-bench bums. On Wednesday, another Woj Bomb announced the Detroit Pistons traded Jerami Grant to the Portland Trail Blazers for a 2025 first-round pick via Milwaukee and multiple pick swaps.
The Pistons also receive No. 36 overall, while the Blazers take No. 46 in the swap. Detroit also will receive a 2025 second-round pick from the Blazers and a 2026 second-round pick (the more favorable between the Blazers and the New Orleans Pelicans). Motor City also received a $21 million trade exception.
With this trade, the Blazers signaled to the rest of the NBA they are entirely in on continuing to retool around Damian Lillard. It’s almost assured they will match any offer to restricted free agent Anfernee Simons and potentially keep free-agent center Jusuf Nurkić. After dumping their core role players (Larry Nance Jr., Robert Covington, and Norman Powell) at the deadline last season and moving longtime second option CJ McCollum. They have looked to surround Lillard with more athleticism and switchable two-way perimeter players with length and size.
Grant brings a veteran on an affordable deal, one more year at around $21 million next season. He can legitimately guard all five positions while providing playmaking and 19 PPG from last season. As the first option in Detroit last season, Grant’s shooting splits were rough at 43/36/84. These are slightly below his career averages of 45/35/72. But Grant has never played next to a veteran-savvy point guard like Lillard, who is on the downside of his prime, but still demands a double-team at 24 PPG, though only through 24 games due to injury.
Looking at what Detroit got back, it’s evident this was a cap-clearing move to pivot toward offering either Deandre Ayton or Miles Bridges a max offer. They now have $43 million in cap space. Either player would be a better fit at the median age of the Pistons’ current core. At 28 years old, Grant is entering his prime and was brought on in 2020 when the team was still trying to make the playoffs with Blake Griffin.
One has to wonder if the Pistons could have brought in a better return had they traded Grant at last year’s deadline instead of waiting for the summer. However, he’s eligible for an extension this offseason, and you have to imagine the Blazers will give it to him to keep Lillard happy.
The Pistons also took themselves out of the competition to trade with Sacramento and get into the top four draft selection. Detroit currently has the fifth pick, one behind the Kings. They have been known to have an interest in Purdue’s Jaden Ivey. However, that possibility is now gone after the Grant deal. It was assumed Grant would be a valuable asset to the Kings, who are looking to trade the fourth pick to add veterans for a playoff run. This leaves the Knicks as perhaps the team now best equipped to make a deal with the Kings.
Portland acquired a 2021 Most Improved Award candidate while showing their star, Lillard, the team’s commitment to turning the Blazers into a contender during his remaining prime years. Grant will take McCullom’s spot as the second option in the Blazers’ offense while providing the team with an elite defender. The Blazers have been terrible on defense during most of Lillard’s prime years in the playoffs. Adding a player like Grant shows a different approach to building around the strengths and weaknesses of a smaller guard.
The dominos have started to fall. With each trade, the stakes get higher. It feels like half the league is trying to increase their draft capital and shed salary while the other half is engaged in an arms race toward next season’s playoffs. For their respective recent trades, Portland, Oklahoma City, and Dallas were the overwhelming winners in terms of players. On paper, those three teams fleeced their counterparts. But upon closer inspection, the three teams were all looking to free up space for younger players while adding draft capital and maneuvering their cap toward free agency.
Portland finished last season at 27-55, earning them the seventh pick in this year’s draft. They can still trade that for another two-way veteran. After years of being financially handcuffed to an aging, under-achieving core, they finally have flexibility. It’s rare for superstars to stay with one team their entire career. We’ve known Lillard was built different. But it looks like Dame Time is here to stay. So far, the Blazers have given him no reason to doubt his decision.
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