Denver Nuggets: Would a Jerami Grant reunion make sense?

Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant (9) tips the ball fromDenver Nuggets guard Monte Morris (11) in the first quarter at Ball Arena on 6 Apr. 2021. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)
Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant (9) tips the ball fromDenver Nuggets guard Monte Morris (11) in the first quarter at Ball Arena on 6 Apr. 2021. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports) /

It’s looking like Jerami Grant will be traded this season and with the Denver Nuggets needing help at the forward slots, would a reunion between the two make sense?

Marc Stein reported on his Substack that there’s a “rising belief” that the Detroit Pistons will move on from Grant at the deadline, despite the long-standing relationship between the player and GM Troy Weaver.

When Grant left Denver in free agency to join the Pistons, it was a puzzling move since the former Syracuse forward hadn’t proven he could be the go-to scorer on his own team.

Jerami Grant broke out in his first season with the Pistons, averaging 22.3 points per game while shooting 43 percent from the floor and 35 percent from 3-point range on high volume. He was a favorite for Most Improved Player in 2020-21 before his efficiency tailed off down the end of the season.

This season, Grant hasn’t regained his early-Detroit form but is still putting up 20.1 points per game and showing much more with the ball than he did with the Nuggets or Oklahoma City Thunder.

I broke down how he improved on offense early last season for Sir Charles In Charge.

This trade report comes at a strange time for Grant as he recently tore a ligament in his thumb, sidelining him for six-plus weeks. Any potential trade suitor would have to wait until he’s healthy before he can get on the court.

Complicating things more is the fact that Grant is extension-eligible this offseason. Regardless of which team he’s with, the forward can sign a deal worth up to four years, $112 million on top of the $20.95 million he’ll be owed next season.

From the Pistons point of view, they clearly won the signing, bringing in a solid scorer that the rest of the league didn’t know he was. By trading him now, they’d get a collection of assets to help with their rebuild. If they decide not to trade him, Grant will likely ask for that extension this offseason and does a rebuilding team really want to sign a long-term extension for a player who will be on the wrong side of 30 when they’re ready to compete?

The Pistons are currently receiving interest from “dozens of teams” about Grant’s availability with the LA Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers at the forefront of those discussions per Shams Charania, The Athletic.

On a side note, that means there are at least 24 teams calling about Grant… seems like a bit too much but hey, keep patting your sources on the back there Shams.

Reading between the lines, a report like this is more likely to come from the player’s camp since it drums up trade interest across the league. If it were only two teams involved, there would be less urgency to get a deal done.

Building on that, Detroit probably doesn’t want to offer him the contract extension for the aforementioned reasons. If Grant wants to lock in a lucrative long-term deal, he’ll have to find it elsewhere.

That’s where the Denver Nuggets come in, would a reunion between the two parties make sense?

When Jerami Grant left Denver, he said it wasn’t an easy decision. The Nuggets were the first team to really let him spread his wings on offense. In the 2020 playoffs (in the bubble), Grant took on a bigger role, averaging 11.6 points a night and taking just over nine shots a night.

Denver’s offense was still built around Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, but when those two created openings in the defense, it was up to Grant and Michael Porter Jr. to catch-and-shoot or attack off closeouts.

When he left Denver, it wasn’t because he didn’t appreciate his growth in the Rocky Mountains, it was because he wanted to go somewhere where he wouldn’t be in the shadow of the league’s Most Valuable Player.

As he told Mike Singer, The Denver Post after leaving:

"“It was tough. I was in a situation where I was comfortable. I loved my teammates, I loved the organization. It was a lot of things that made me teeter between my decision, but at the end of the day, I made the best decision for me and my career. My growth as a player is extremely important to me. It was a challenge. The challenge intrigued me. I made my decision, and I’m happy with it.”"

As Singer notes in the piece, when pitching him the option to stay in Denver, the most they could offer him was the fourth-option on offense.

But now, after spending two seasons elsewhere, it’s becoming clear that Grant’s best possible role on a competitor is as a smaller cog in a bigger machine. Yes, he has the ability to put up huge figures on offense, but it has been inefficient and on a losing team.

The Denver Nuggets replaced Grant will Aaron Gordon the following trade deadline and the fit has been seamless. Gordon had already tried to be a bigger offensive player with the Orlando Magic and he has flourished next to Nikola Jokic and the scoring of MPJ and Jamal when healthy.

That might prompt some Nuggets fans to ask whether it’s worth bringing back Grant, the team has a fine replacement already under contract. But what if Grant comes in alongside AG, giving Denver one of the better defensive forward tandems in the league while both can cut, spot up, and play off Jokic’s brilliance?

A trade that would see Jerami Grant come to the Denver Nuggets while keeping the core intact and Aaron Gordon would look like this:

At first glance, it doesn’t look like the Pistons are getting very much in this deal. But if Troy Weaver wants to move on for Grant instead of keeping and extending him, the power in these negotiations flips over to the buyer.

Given the previous report that the Lakers and Blazers are the most interested parties, a possible Denver deal would only have to beat those two teams. At the moment, the Lakers have next-to-no assets as all to move unless the Pistons really like Talen Horton-Tucker and the Blazers are out several first-round picks and lack on-roster young talent.

Given the uncertainty around MPJ’s back injury and Murray coming off an ACL tear, Denver’s own 2022 first-round pick might be the best asset in a deal with all three of these teams.

Detroit could also look at Will Barton as a player they can flip for something else down the road, turning him into a future pick or another young player.

This move would also sort out the Nuggets closing lineup for when they’re at full strength and ready to compete. A lineup of Murray-MPJ-Grant-Gordon-Jokic would be one of the tallest in the league and gives Jokic plenty of options around him for when a double team comes.

On the financial side, Grant would be hoping that Denver gives him a deal similar to AG, something in the four-year, $92 million range which would mean the Nuggets are dipping into the luxury tax, something they won’t be doing until next season when MPJ’s extension starts.

Yes, ownership has shown that they’re happy to dip into the tax for this team, but would they go even further into it for this move? That asks a broader question, if Tim Connelly believes there’s one more move out there similar to this one that would make them title contenders, is ownership willing to pay the price? If not, the roster we’re looking at now is the one we’ll be seeing for the foreseeable future.

Is that enough or does the team need to make one more move? Unfortunately, we won’t find out the answer to that question this season as it’s hard to glean where they’re at without a full-strength roster. The waiting game continues.

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