To crack the first deal of draft week in the NBA, and one that could be the most brilliant front office season in the league, it’s best to start with a simple question. Or rather, two questions:
The first is: If you could replace CJ McCollum for Jerami Grant and Josh Hart, would you?
The second is: What if I told you that Grant and Hart combined still earned less than McCullum?
At the very least, Grant’s Portland trade somewhat solidified the foundation of Jenga’s wobbly tower theory, the Trail Blazers’ decision to rebuild around Damien Lillard, rather than just trading Lillard and starting over.
To review, it’s not exactly McCollum’s business deal for Hart and Grant, but it’s close enough. In February, Portland sent McCollum to New Orleans for Hart, in the first two seconds, with the first pick apparently to be the 11th pick on Thursday…until Paul George contracted COVID-19 and turned into his first bucks in 2025.
Larry Nance’s stuffing into the deal, along with various other paychecks on both sides, resulted in a $20.5 million commercial exception. juuuust Big enough to take Grant on a later trade. This does not seem to happen by chance.
Fast forward to Wednesday, when the Blazers took the same first from Milwaukee and two seconds, as well as swapping a pick from the 36th and 46th picks in the 2022 draft, and traded Detroit to take Grant into their exception. (The minute seconds that go to the Pistons are second in Detroit in 2025, and better than seconds in Portland or New Orleans in 2026.)
So if you’re keeping score, Portland has now started what is expected to be an off-season activity by maintaining its lottery selection and continuing to have a big winger. One could argue that Grant’s idea has never matched reality, with the exception of the first half of the 2020-21 season, and that it does not equal his $20.7 million salary for next year; One could argue equally strongly that the Blazers were not in a good position to have great wings, and this was the best one reasonably available to them. The Blazers can extend Grant’s contract in six months; Otherwise, he’s a free agent next summer.
Meanwhile, Detroit fans who had been disappointed in earning Portland’s seventh pick in the 2022 draft in this deal are undoubtedly disappointed, but that never seemed like a realistic return for Grant…especially in this case who wasn’t The Pistons have to take it back any salary, not even one of the various financial deals dead at the back end of the Portland roster.
Backing off Grant without getting anything back with a first time likely late in 2025, a 10 selection deal in the 2022 second round and two good future seconds isn’t something to sneeze at. I doubt they could have shopped better anywhere else. The Pistons can now turn down their team options in Carsen Edwards, Luca Garza and Frank Jackson and they have roughly $47 million in the cover room, which is more than enough to drop a maximum bid sheet on Miles Bridges, Dender Eaton or perhaps to entice Dallas guard Jalen Bronson.
The Pistons could also take a winning run over signing Grant, which seemed like a dramatic plus-pay at the time, but Detroit has now cashed in in a future draft stock at no real cost in the intervening two years. Whatever other oddity has happened in Detroit over the past two years (one of the picks they took back was one of the four seconds they sent the Clippers to in that weird Luke Kennard deal), Grant’s contract was the biggest bet by the Troy Weaver regime to date, and it hits .
The obvious question in Detroit now is whether this was just a guessing game for the hats room, or if it was done with foreknowledge that a particular player is up and ready to score in the pistons hat chamber. Grant likely was part of a signing and trading deal with Phoenix for Ayton, for example; That possibility is now gone. Between today and July 1, the Pistons will hold the title of the league’s most interesting team.
As for Portland, the opportunity cost of moving to the grant deal is that it makes it more difficult to implement deals for other goals; That giant trading exception from McCollum’s deal is now gone. This could be a problem because the better, younger winger who makes less money, OG Anunoby, appears to be in the crosshairs as well.
Portland will certainly need to pick a seventh in the 2022 draft to acquire Anunoby, but implementing the deal is tough now that the commercial exception is over. The Raptors wouldn’t necessarily want much of what Portland could offer in return as a matching contract (like Eric Bledsoe’s $19 million full guarantee for next year); Blazers are also likely to be a taxpayer if they make a deal this way. Obviously Hart could get into that deal as well, but I suppose the Blazers will keep him and Hart-Grant-Anonobi line up two, three or four.
An alternative is the pu pu platter, which combines six different contracts to match Anunoby’s salary and then adds the seventh pick like the cherry on top. This works more easily if Nasir Little is in the deal, but little is FOD (Ms. Friends) from what I hear and therefore would be more likely to be left out of such an arrangement.
If that’s the case, the brooding ensemble of Greg Brown, Justis Winslow, Keon Johnson, Diddy Lozada, Trendon Watford and Elijah Hughes signed and traded would make juuuust Enough money to be legal tender in the Anunoby swap, provided the trade occurs after the July suspension. If the Raptors add two small contracts of their own (for example, Svi Mykhailiuk and Armoni Brooks), they will create a commercial exception of $17 million.
(Side note: If OG Anunoby is indeed available, the Grizzlies definitely call the Masai Oguri every 30 minutes and then connect with Bobby Webster on the 15th and 45th. They’ve been looking for a big winger to pair with their current core for two years now and could take the Anunoby contract to Maximum space if needed. The only question is what other players and draft assets Memphis needs to bring back and whether the price is too high. Also, of course, if Anunoby is already available.)
Blazers have other factors to consider. Adding Anunoby will leave them only $40 million or so off the tax streak, even if Bledsoe is waived. They will still need to re-sign Jusuf Nurkic and Anfernee Simons and fill in another three to seven blank spots on the list depending on how the trade is set up.
So… if it wasn’t obvious, the Blazers-Pistons deal could be the domino that drives a lot of other business action. Detroit could take dead contracts in its roof space and still have enough to do a maximum contract deal; Picking Portland in seventh is very important, and the Blazers have other scenarios to work on as well. The book was written only partially about this trade, depending on the subsequent moves each team made, but I suspect we’ll be referring to this deal more often over the coming months and years.
Edwards: Why the Pistons have made a Jerami Grant deal now
Harper: Pistons Trading Arrangement – Blazers
(Jerami Grant photo: Dan Hamilton/USA Today)
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