Making an appearance on Yahoo Sports’ Posted Up with Chris Haynes podcast, Denver Nuggets power forward Jerami Grant discussed a myriad of topics, including his preferred format for the NBA’s return, why the Nuggets are often overlooked, his uncle Horace Grant and his impending player option.
Grant, 25-years-old, has a $9.3 million player option for the 2020-21 season after signing a three-year, $27.3 million contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2018. However, Grant has played the best basketball of his career over the last two seasons, leading to obvious questions of if he believes he can obtain a more lucrative contract in free agency this offseason.
Haynes, one of the preeminent reporters today, would ask Grant if he’s been thinking about how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed his thought process about his potential free agency.
Candidly, Grant says “a hundred percent, a hundred percent, I’m not going to sit up here and lie. Being a potential free agent, I gotta play offense. So being a potential free agent this upcoming summer… me playing to the level I’ve been playing has surprised a lot of people… I definitely think about trying to figure out what I’m going to do next season, whether it’s come back or not.
It’s tough though… It’s tough with all this going on. It’s hard to even gauge what’s going on. The salary cap might drop… It might drop a lot, it might drop a little bit. So I think everything just kind of hangs in the balance of what the owners want to do, what the NBA’s doing, with the rest of the season.”
Asked directly if he’s leaning towards becoming a free agent, Grant didn’t shy away, telling Haynes “I’m definitely not leaning towards picking up the player option. Like you said, I feel like I definitely outplayed the $9 million that I’m making each year right now. But at the same time… I’d love to come to a conclusion or something like that with Denver, it just depends what we discuss and negotiate when the time comes.”
It makes perfect sense why Grant would want and feel like he deserves a pay raise after averaging 12.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game over the past two seasons, shooting 48.7% from the field and 39.6% from 3-point range. Grant averaged 7.5 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in the first four seasons of his career, shooting 44.4% from the field and 30.1% from three.
Developing his outside shooting has made Grant an impact player on both ends of the floor, exactly the type of high-end role player that teams covet when looking for pieces of their championship puzzle. That said, though Grant is deserving of a larger contract, the biggest obstacle for him getting that from the Nuggets is one of his teammates.
Veteran power forward Paul Millsap will undoubtedly be a free agent this offseason, as the three-year, $90 million contract he signed with the Nuggets in 2018 will expire. With $175 million in career earnings, Millsap may just take a pay cut to remain in Denver but the fact of the matter is that the Nuggets have undoubtedly needed Millsap.
Averaging 12.0 points (shooting 48.6% from the field and 44.0% from three), 4.9 rebounds and 0.9 steals per game don’t live up a $30 million contract.
Yet, Millsap is key to the team on both ends of the floor with an on-off net rating of +11.4 net rating (with a +3.9 offensive rating), which is by far the highest among the team’s rotation players. Grant has an on-off net rating of -9.6.
Conversely, Grant appears in seven of Denver’s ten best and ten most used 5-man lineups while Millsap appears in just three.
If Millsap doesn’t want to take the type of pay cut that would allow them to bring back Millsap, then the Nuggets may be forced to choose between the two.
Another issue that could arise when deciding whether or not to bring back Grant is the necessary development and high ceiling of Michael Porter Jr., who has shown himself to be a pure scorer and strong rebounder. Should Grant be re-signed, it could affect the playing time of MPJ as they both play power forward primarily.
Should Denver prioritize both Porter’s development and bringing Millsap, which is a high possibility, then Grant may have played his first and last season with the Nuggets.
Unless, that is, Grant opts to pick up his player option for the 2020-21 season.