If Ben Simmons is the linchpin of the NBA's trade season, Jerami Grant is being viewed by league personnel as the best player with the highest likelihood of being dealt prior to the Feb. 10 deadline.
The situation in Philadelphia hasn't changed since July: Daryl Morey's front office has thus far rebuffed any Simmons offer that hasn't included an All-Star-caliber partner for Joel Embiid who's on the Sixers' wish list.
The Pistons' package of Grant, Saddiq Bey, Kelly Olynyk and a first-round pick, for example, was not met with much enthusiasm by Philadelphia brass, league sources told B/R. But when that deal construct began to circle around rival NBA front offices this fall, it also alerted teams to Grant's surprising availability.
As Simmons is still unlikely to be moved, Grant has attracted around a dozen suitors. With apologies to Myles Turner, "He's the grand prize of this deadline," one team strategist said.
The Lakers, Trail Blazers, Knicks, Jazz, Wizards, Celtics, Pacers, Timberwolves and Kings have all signaled interest in the 27-year-old.
The frenzy comes one year after Pistons general manager Troy Weaver swiftly declined any inquiry about Grant's availability after the forward surprisingly chose Detroit in free agency. Sources say Detroit is now asking for two first-round picks or one first-round pick plus a high-upside young player.
That's a similar valuation Aaron Gordon garnered last season, and the parallels are clear. Like Gordon at the time of his deal to Denver, Grant still has one year remaining on his contract following this season. Sources say Grant expects to sign a lucrative extension in the ballpark of four years, $112 million this offseason.
For any team to sign off on a trade for Grant, they'll need assurances of his plans to re-sign this offseason, just like Gordon did in Denver. Grant also has little interest in joining a new situation where he doesn't feature as a primary offensive option, sources said.
Orlando was successful in generating something close to a bidding war for Gordon. Juggling interest from at least Denver, Boston, Portland and Minnesota, the Magic ultimately netted R.J. Hampton, Gary Harris and a 2025 first-round pick.
There's a sense around the league that Detroit will mirror that patience with Grant. For starters, the versatile forward is currently sidelined with a thumb injury. But Grant is viewed as one of the few players on the trade block who can have a major impact on the postseason picture, and the Pistons seem to understand his value in this current market.
"He fits everywhere," the team strategist added.
"That's why nothing's been done yet," an assistant general manager said. "He's gonna have so many suitors; they're just gonna wait them all out."
Several league personnel view Washington as a favorite to land Grant. He hails from the D.C. area, his father Harvey played for the franchise from 1988-93 and again from 1996-98. The Wizards' first-year head coach Wes Unseld Jr. also coached Grant as an assistant with the Nuggets.
Despite general manager Tommy Sheppard's contract extension, Washington's front office is still under a dose of pressure to build the best complementary roster it can around Bradley Beal ahead of the All-Star guard's contract extension this summer.
Following the Wizards' 10-3 start, they are currently in the play-in tournament tier of teams, and Grant would seemingly add the perfect punch to their frontcourt. Knowing Detroit's asking price, it's difficult to imagine a deal structure that doesn't send either Deni Avdija or Rui Hachimura back to the Pistons. Montrezl Harrell's expiring $9.7 million contract can help make the salaries match, and Harrell has been considered available for trade, according to league sources.
The Lakers' interest in Grant appears to be just that. A package of Talen Horton-Tucker and Kendrick Nunn likely won't pique Detroit's interest in this competitive market. Same for the Jazz, whose best offer featured Joe Ingles' expiring $12.4 million salary and a future first-round pick. Boston showed initial intrigue in Grant, but the Celtics were recently categorized to B/R as an unlikely destination.
For Minnesota, only second-year forward Jaden McDaniels would be considered a young prospect to flip. The Timberwolves have all their first-round picks, and as B/R previously reported, Malik Beasley is known around the league as Minnesota's expendable piece for salary-matching purposes.
Memphis has been a popular speculative trade partner for Detroit. Grant's fit alongside Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. is obvious, but the Grizzlies are not expected to make a serious run at him at this time.
Memphis has emerged as a surprising contender in the Western Conference largely because of a patient team-building strategy. "Pushing their chips in to get Grant would be the exact opposite of their moves so far under [general manager] Zach [Kleiman]," another assistant general manager said.
Which brings us to the mighty Chicago Bulls. Currently holding the top seed in the East, Chicago still has one potential all-in move up its sleeve, as injured second-year forward Patrick Williams has a mountain of trade value despite being out for the season with a dislocated wrist.
The connections between Williams and Detroit are deep, as are the connections between Grant and Chicago. Williams was the Pistons' top 2020 NBA draft target at No. 7 before Chicago selected the Florida State product at No. 4, and Weaver was known as a huge supporter.
The Bulls have three strong connections to Grant. General manager Marc Eversley overlapped with Grant in Philadelphia, head coach Billy Donovan coached Grant in Oklahoma City, and executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas was part of the Nuggets' brain trust that acquired Grant from the Thunder.
The on-paper fit appears quite clear here too. Grant could plug immediately into the Bulls' starting lineup between DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic. By the time DeRozan's three-year contract expires after the 2023-24 season, any Grant extension would just be entering its second year.
For Chicago to move Williams, Karnisovas would need absolute confidence Grant is the final ingredient for a championship run. The front office has already mortgaged the majority of its future draft capital, and sending out Williams, Derrick Jones Jr. and the Blazers' protected 2022 first-rounder would lock the Bulls into an inflexible future. At this juncture, Chicago appears uncomfortable with that.
There's a world where Detroit holds on to Grant. He has as strong a connection with Weaver as any player shares with a lead executive.
Grant chose the Pistons over the contending Nuggets, which created the hole for Denver to acquire Gordon in the first place.
If the Pistons retain Grant, land another top-five lottery pick and Cade Cunningham continues to blossom, what's preventing Detroit from emerging as next year's surprise playoff force in the Eastern Conference?
"If they don't blow you away, you might as well just keep him," another assistant general manager said. "If you have Paolo Banchero, Grant, Cade, Saddiq Bey, you have something. When I talk to Detroit, they just want one of the top three picks."