How the loss of Jerami Grant affects the Nuggets

The impact of losing Jerami Grant will certainly be felt by the Denver Nuggets.

Denver Nuggets fans were left shocked when The Athletic’s Shams Charania announced that forward Jerami Grant would be heading to the Detroit Pistons.

This is no small part due to Grant signing a three-year, $60 million contract; more than twice as much as the player option he declined to become an unrestricted free agent.

The Nuggets weren’t left without compensation with the move being consummated as a sign-and-trade, allowing Denver to receive a trade exception and cash considerations.

Still, while the trade exception will be beneficial for the Nuggets, they obviously would have preferred to retain Grant. The 26-year-old had really began to develop as a two-way threat and was set to be a big part of the franchise’s future.

However, Grant has bid on himself and left for the Detroit Pistons in order to have a larger role in the offense, with Denver having at least four players who deserve to put up as many shots as him (Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Michael Porter Jr.).

Per the Detroit Free Press’ Omara Sankofa II:

After two strong seasons as a high-level role player on playoff teams, he has an opportunity to prove he can be a foundational piece for a rebuilding team hoping to eventually get to that level.

Grant had improved his offensive game immensely throughout his career, and has found multiple ways to score. Capable of putting the ball on the floor and driving to the basket, Grant also finds himself shooting post fadeaways or spot-up threes, and being solid at both.

In fact, while being able to create his own offense was a useful skill, being efficient in catch-and-shoot situations was even more important because it allows the offense to flow freely and for Grant to be an outlet for both Jokic or Murray.

For the second season in a row, Grant shot at a high clip from deep, converting 38.9% of his shots from behind the arc in 2019-20.

Per Sankofa II, Grant has taken 545 3-point attempts during the past two seasons (making 39.1% of them), after taking 528 during his first four and making 30.1%.

However, while his offense has improved exponentially, it’s Grant’s defense that truly makes him valuable.

While his defense isn’t always going to be suffocating, he has a combination of length, fluidity and athleticism that allows him to stick to his man — whether they play in the backcourt or the frontcourt.

As a result of his positional versatility, awareness, technique and reliability on that end, Grant has the ability to defend the opposition team’s best player every single night. This was best seen during the 2020 NBA Playoffs, as he was matched up against LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis and Donovan Mitchell.

It’s that versatility that the Nuggets will certainly miss more than any other attribute Grant has.

While the Nuggets did make some decent moves at the start of free agency — signing Facundo Campazzo, JaMychal Green, Isaiah Hartenstein and re-signing Paul Millsap — none of the players Denver has signed has the defensive versatility of Grant.

Green and Hartenstein, though versatile and respectable perimeter defenders, are best when defending their primary positions and aren’t the type of player the Nuggets will want guard Mitchell or Kawhi or LeBron. Millsap, who is no longer aging gracefully and beginning to experience a significant decline physically, can’t be trusted to defend top-tier wings or perimeter players.

If Porter could learn to use his physical gifts to be as reliable and versatile as Grant, then Denver would have little to nothing to worry about internally. Unfortunately, MPJ’s offense and defense are night and day, even with the young forward taking significant strides forward during the postseason.

Who knows, maybe 7’2” forward Bol Bol is the player that has the best chance of replacing Grant.