Winners and Losers from Trail Blazers-Pistons Jerami Grant Trade

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured Columnist IVJune 23, 2022

Winners and Losers from Trail Blazers-Pistons Jerami Grant Trade

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    Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

    Jerami Grant is at long last on the move.

    As first reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Detroit Pistons are sending Grant and the No. 46 selection to the Portland Trail Blazers for No. 36, the Milwaukee Bucks' 2025 first-rounder (top-four protection), Detroit's own 2025 second-round pick and the more favorable of Portland's and New Orleans' 2026 second-round choices.

    This move signals a great many things for both the Blazers and Pistons—as well as the rest of the NBA ahead of Thursday's draft. And in situations such as this, there's only one thing we can do: belly flop, ever so deliberately, down the winners and losers rabbit hole using the latest take-delivering technology.

    To the Immediate Reactionizer 3000!

Winner: Portland Trail Blazers

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    Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

    General manager Joe Cronin has made no secret of his intent to reshape the Blazers around Damian Lillard following the team's February teardown. This deal is a vindication of sorts for him, and more importantly, it's infinitely clarifying for the team.

    Portland has mostly seemed like it's wandering aimlessly through an organizational fog since the firesale. It didn't acquire an immediate first-round pick despite giving up CJ McCollum, Robert Covington, Larry Nance Jr. and Norman Powell, and the idea that Cronin could rebuild the roster from half-scratch around a soon-to-be 32-year-old Damian Lillard felt comedic.

    Widespread skepticism presumed the Blazers would do something impulsive and lackluster to short-circuit their bigger picture in the pursuit of the nine-seed. Their infatuation with Jerami Grant ranked among the league's worst kept secrets, and armchair general managers everywhere wondered if they'd be near-sighted enough to flip the No. 7 pick for a non-star speeding toward a nine-figure payday.

    This move submarines nothing. The Blazers are giving up a distant first-rounder from a team projected to run the tables in the Eastern Conference, so long as Giannis Antetokounmpo still dons its jersey. The idea of cap space is over-romanticized for smaller markets anyways—and, frankly, quite useless ahead of this summer's free-agency class.

    Bankrolling Grant's next deal will be expensive. He's eligible for a four-year, $112 million extension right now. That's not egregious for one of the league's premier three-and-D weapons, particularly one who flashed more ball skills after arriving in Detroit and might be able to steal some minutes as a small-ball 5.

    A four-year extension also takes Grant through his age-32 season. There's a chance, if not overwhelming likelihood, that he's a more valuable trade asset on his new deal than the Bucks pick ever would be.

    In the meantime, the Blazers are getting the kind of wing defender they've long lacked who fits like a glove on offense, even if they must cater to his desire for some self-created touches. There's a separate conversation to be had about whether Portland's journey to this point was worth the logistical gymnastics.

    Is Grant, Dame, Anfernee Simons (restricted), Josh Hart, Jusuf Nurkic (unrestricted) and No. 7 actually an upgrade over Dame, McCollum, Powell, Simons, Nance and Covington? It's a fair question—and one for another day, after we know what the Blazers wind up doing with the seventh-overall pick. On its own, though, this move is a colossally clarifying W for Portland.

To-Be-Determined: Detroit Pistons

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    Nic Antaya/Getty Images

    Meme-makers were quick to pan the Pistons for their return on Jerami Grant. Moving up 10 spots in this year's second round, a 2025 Bucks first that can technically not convey (top-four protection) and a pair of additional seconds is unbelievably underwhelming compared to the imagineered deals that had Detroit bagging No. 7.

    Just because Twitter user @pistons2039champs sent out a screenshot of a hypothetical trade that sent out the No. 7 pick for Grant doesn't mean the selection was ever available. If anything, the Dallas Mavericks nabbing Christian Wood for the No. 26 pick and zero rotation players should've been a harbinger of the market for sellers hocking non-stars on expiring contracts.

    Obliterating the Pistons is fine if you believe they could've extracted more out of Grant at the trade deadline. That's a big, fat if. Sources told The Athletic's James Edwards this is the "best offer" Detroit received "dating back to February's trade deadline."

    This isn't a conveniently timed spin. Grant missed around a month-and-a-half with a sprained thumb right before the deadline and wasn't exactly setting the world on fire upon return.

    If you think the Pistons should have rerouted Grant over the 2021 offseason on the heels of his career year, that's a different story and completely fair. But even rebuilding teams cannot be reasonably expected to flip recently signed free agents who don't perfectly fit their timeline just because they played well. Detroit is not obligated to be a farm system for contenders.

    This is not meant to suggest the Pistons are making out like bandits. They're not. They're scooping up a modest return for a soon-to-be free agent who cost them only cap space to acquire in the first place. That's a fair-weather tale.

    But the additional cap space they're chiseling out is also part of the calculus. The Pistons have a seamless path to $40-plus million in room and can dredge up around $55 million if they renounce all of their own free agents (including Marvin Bagley III) and decline all of their team options and non-guarantees (Hamidou Diallo, Frank Jackson, Luka Garza, Carsen Edwards).

    Detroit can go any number of directions with this cash. Maybe it uses the flexibility to soak up unwanted money attached to picks and prospects. Or perhaps it inflates the market for younger free agents who fill immediate needs. Speaking of which...

Winners: Deandre Ayton and Miles Bridges

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    Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

    Leverage is hard to come by for free agents with undefined markets who might otherwise hope to drum up max-money interest. A couple of them should be rejoicing for joy right now.

    The Blazers' side of this equation ostensibly removes a free-agency spender from the field, but not really. They were never going to have appreciable spending power if they wanted to retain the traded player exception created as part of the CJ McCollum deal, which they used to absorb Jerami Grant.

    If anything, the free-agency market is plus-one on the big-spender scale. The Pistons now have access to so much cap space that they can be more cavalier with it. Maxing out a restricted free agent, for instance, no longer ties up all of their spending power while incumbent teams deliberate. Detroit has more than enough to send out huge offers and continue shopping.

    This should be welcome news for a handful of names, but especially Deandre Ayton and Miles Bridges.

    Ayton profiles as the most gettable, given how starkly his relationship and standing within the Phoenix Suns organization has seemingly deteriorated. The Pistons need a big, and he has proven to be a defensive anchor who can disrupt and hang at multiple levels. His screening, rolling, mini-jumper touch and inconsistent-but-extant force around the basket should jell nicely alongside Cade Cunningham.

    Bridges isn't as much of a squeaky-clean fit, but he's a portable, if underwhelming, defender who can annihilate opponents off lobs from Cunningham. His three-point touch fell off last season, but he's previously shown solid set shooting and hinted at methodical off-the-bounce accuracy. He also has more directionality on drives.

    Both Ayton and Bridges are worth kicking the tires on for the Pistons. They, in turn, should be thrilled it's now more realistic, if not an outright reality, that they broker max or near-max offer sheets. (Related: It would be genuinely, and hysterically, diabolical if the Blazers helped the Pistons manufacture more cap space only for Detroit to turn around and pay Anfernee Simons.)

Loser: Charlotte Hornets/Michael Jordan's Wallet

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    Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

    Billionaire Hornets governor Michael Jordan can't catch a break these days.

    Kenny Atkinson just dipped on Charlotte amid reports the organization wouldn't finance his preferred assistant coaching staff, according to Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer. And the Hornets were already trying to find a partner to dump Gordon Hayward's contract so they could re-sign Miles Bridges without stumbling into the luxury tax, per ESPN's Brian Windhorst (h/t Evan Sidery).

    That search may be about to intensify.

    Bridges, a Michigan native, could solicit interest from Detroit and leverage that into an all-out max from Charlotte. This isn't a guarantee, but it's a greater possibility than it was a few days ago. That's an L for the penny-pinching, aggressively mediocre Hornets.

    Feel free to loop the Suns under this umbrella, as well. But Deandre Ayton had a better chance than Bridges of securing a near-max offer before the Pistons opened up league-high cap space.

    The souring dynamic between Ayton and the organization also suggests both parties were prepared to explore alternatives. Of course, if the Jerami Grant trade makes it more likely the Pistons max out Ayton without talking to the Suns, and they're more inclined to let him walk than pay him $30-plus million per year, Phoenix is absolutely a gargantuan loser.

Winner: Jerami Grant

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    Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

    Oh, hey, how about we talk about Jerami Grant, the crown jewel of this entire trade?

    Going from the rebuilding Pistons to the more immediately ambitious Blazers isn't necessarily a victory for the 28-year-old. We saw him leave a winning situation in 2019 (Denver) for a suckier one (Detroit) not because he was getting more money but because he wanted to a more prominent offensive role. Hashtag, respect.

    The Blazers offer the best of both worlds. Grant won't be their No. 1 option or every-possession No. 2, but he isn't so far down their pecking order they'll task him with bystander duty in the half-court—for now at least.

    Portland also probably isn't acquiring him in an attempt to roll the dice. This trade comes with an implicit commitment they'll extend him.

    So, theoretically, Grant gets to join a more competitive team, still tracking toward a huge payday, without seeing his offensive usage retreat back into the low-to-mid teens.

    I will forever count the chance to play with Damian Lillard as a monster victory, too. Teammates always seem willing to crawl across broken glass, bare-kneed, into the depths of hell with him. There has to be something to that.

Losers: Sellers on the Trade Market(?)

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Perhaps this is to-be-determined territory. But if the returns on Christian Wood and Jerami Grant are any indication, the NBA is headed for an extremely buyer-friendly market. That's fantastic news for playoff teams but not so much for prospective sellers who could now face tougher decisions on whether to jettison certain players.

    What will the Atlanta Hawks get for John Collins, who Fischer billed as the "most likely trade candidate among impact veterans around the league?" How much can the Houston Rockets expect to receive for a 33-year-old Eric Gordon?

    And what does this mean for the Utah Jazz if they decide to aggressively shop Rudy Gobert?

    Expiring contracts for non-stars are not the benchmark for every deal. But longer-term contracts on players approaching 30 (like Gobert) or fringe stars with gaping holes on one side of the floor (Collins) aren't inarguably net-positive assets.

    More than anything, two extremely useful players, Grant and Wood, were just acquired for appreciably less than anticipated by the NBA intelligentsia. That's something worth monitoring as the NBA's silly season keeps soldiering onward.


    Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball Reference, Stathead or Cleaning the Glass. Salary information via Spotrac.

    Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale), and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by NBA Math's Adam Fromal.

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