Over the past two weeks, the Portland Trail Blazers have used a slew of trades, signings and draft picks to rebuild their roster heading into the 2022-23 NBA season. If you haven’t paid close attention to it, you could be forgiven for missing some details. Even if you did, it’s time to take a deep breath, recap, and reset.
Over the 4th of July holiday weekend, we’ll be breaking down Portland’s moves so far this summer, looking at each in detail, bringing you up to date and revealing the importance of each trade.
We’ll start with Portland’s most splashy move so far, trading for Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant.
The transaction: The Blazers acquire 6’8, 210-pound, 28-year-old forward Jerami Grant from the Detroit Pistons.
What it costs: One trade exception, a 2025 first-round pick originally owned by the Milwaukee Bucks, a 2025 second-round pick, and two second-round pick trades in favor of Detroit.
NBA reaction: Generally positive, with ratings ranging from zone B to A.
Statistics : 19.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 42.6 FG%, 35.8 3PT% in 31.9 mpg over 47 appearances (2021-22)
What Portland Won
The Blazers acquired Grant — a legitimate starter and fellow Team USA member along with Portland guard Damian Lillard — for a bargain price. They will bet on his defense. He’s got a good drive and can get around the perimeter without getting burned…a trait missing from several forwards the Blazers have tried to plug in next to Lillard in the past.
Grant’s emergence as an offensive player over the past two seasons has sparked interest. Prior to 2021-22, he never averaged more than 13.6 points in a season. In 2021-22, he climbed to 22.3 points, followed by 19.2 last season.
Combine scoring potential with defensive aptitude, and Grant could easily become the best power forward to play in Portland since LaMarcus Aldridge left in 2015. After years of machinations, the Blazers might have closed that gap in spin for the price of a minor future first. – rounder. It would be all of a sudden.
Every team Grant has played for has recognized his abilities. However, none of them kept it. He didn’t stay in one place for more than two and a half seasons.
This is significant as Grant is also in the final year of his current contract, paying him $21 million. He will be looking for a longer contract and probably a raise. Portland isn’t just in the driver’s seat to give it to him, it’s anything but expected. The only ‘out’ would be a serious injury or the complete failure of that rebuilt lineup before the extension’s deadline. The Blazers are about to shell out more money, for longer, than anyone has ever had to give. They don’t have a secondary plan. They have no way to replace it. It should work.
Grant’s defense will likely hold up, if nothing else in the category “Better than most power forwards could sustain in Portland.” Whether his offense will live up to the billing remains to be seen. His shooting percentages aren’t special. He thrived when the Pistons went into a tailspin, and he was able to create without too much competition or interference on offense. That won’t be the case with a formation with Lillard, Anfernee Simons and even Jusuf Nurkic playing alongside him.
Grant’s rebounding, stealing and blocking numbers are also low for a power forward, especially one prized for defense. He can put extra pressure on Nurkic to sweep the boards. Point out that if the Blazers also need to get small at the three-pointer. If you can’t keep the shots from going up, the rebound becomes the period at the end of the defensive phrase. The Blazers won’t thrive on a series of heinous run-ons instead.
Grant’s upside will need to be honed and his game developed more if he is to fit perfectly into the space the Blazers have opened up for him. It’s entirely possible, maybe even likely, but it will take work from all parties and success isn’t guaranteed.
The Blazers have improved with this move, or at least they have serious potential to do so. Grant wasn’t on that gold medal team with Lillard for nothing. Dame’s seal of approval means a ton.
The low initial price made the trade a no-brainer. Portland retained enough other assets to build more, a critical part of the overall strategy.
That said, the Blazers didn’t buy themselves a spot in the NBA Finals, or even the Western Conference Finals, with this deal. They bought themselves a chance to keep building with heightened hopes that these moves will bring real success instead of just rallying rah-rah. That’s exactly what they had to do. This was probably the maximum they could reasonably expect. As such, it was a solid opening piece for the summer.
A big day of draft…