The Blazer deal with Jerami Grant was fine, despite Lillard’s departure

The Portland Trail Blazers will sign Jerami Grant to a five-year, $160 million contract when it reaches NBA free agency the moratorium expires next week.

It will still go through despite Damian Lillard’s request to be moved.

The impressive amount was reported by The Athletic’s Shams Charania, 21 minutes into free agency without details on incentives, options or annual breakdowns.

Since the Blazers were Grant’s established team, they were uniquely able to offer a five-year contract that expires in 2028 — a few months after his 34th birthday.

You’re going to struggle to find anyone who will admit that the contract favors the Blazers. But with Lillard’s likely departure, the Blazers could find themselves back under the salary cap again very soon, making the size of Grant’s deal a whole lot more palatable. The franchise won’t let him go for nothing, and Grant isn’t hanging around to play with a team of guys on rookie-scale contracts.

Grant’s campaign 2022-23

Playing in Portland colors last season, Grant averaged 20.5 points on a career-high 40 percent from three, along with 4.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.8 blocks.

He finished in the 82nd percentile among forwards in three-point shooting, 88th percentile in threes from above the break (41 percent) and 84th percentile in blocks. Grant’s points per shot attempts were a solid 121.8 to go with a decent enough 55.5 effective field goal percentage.

He contributed on and off the ball at a position where the Blazers had been shallow for years, operating on both sides of the ball.

Grant’s main contribution arguably came at the defensive end, often serving at the point of attack. He was cleared to play there, but likely would have played less if Matisse Thybulle had been a Blazer all season.

Grant’s workload increased dramatically when Damian Lillard sat out the entire 2022-23 campaign with an injury. During those periods, both he and Anfernee Simons were forced to act as offensive focal points, making him a true two-way player.

Big deal?

Even with that summary in mind, I hear you ask, “But why would they give him $32 million a year? Who else was raising that kind of money?”

While the old adage suggests the Blazers have to pay a higher price for free agents, there was a little more to it than that.

First, Grant had earned his pay. He became everything he was billed to be last season and more.

I have no doubt that on the back of his latest campaign, cap space teams such as Houston Rockets, The Detroit Pistons and Sacramento Kings could have offered lucrative deals.

To combat this, the Blazers and Grants management could have known going into free agency that they had to meet a certain number to fend off competing offers. [ed. That number was max years, big dollars.]

Cronin was not in a position to wait and see here. He had to secure Grant, not only to then keep Lillard on the side, but also to avoid losing the forward for nothing if the point guard changed his mind.

Lillard leaves treasure

Given Lillard’s departure, Grant is almost certainly not done with said contract in Portland. Which leads me to another factor that may have led to the giant contract.

Rich Paul seems to be pretty good at his job – see the deal Fred VanVleet secured in Houston. I can only speculate, but maybe the reason why Grant’s deal was a little bigger than expected because doubts about Lillard.

If Lillard is dealt this summer, Grant, 29, will be stuck in another rebuilding scenario (see Pistons tenure) until he’s legally able to be moved in January. The expiration of the contract keeps Grant and Paul happy regardless of Lillard’s presence or intentions.

Is the agreement transferable?

With some of the other deals already paid out, a $32 million per year deal doesn’t seem ridiculous for a versatile forward in his prime, especially if Grant is able to capitalize on his 2022-23 form.

The NBA salary cap will be $136 million next season. It will only increase over the next five years. Grant’s deal will be 23 percent of the cap, just fine for what he is – a third player in the offense.

Let’s assume Grant is in Portland on opening night. If he is able to perform at the near All Star level he did last season, moving him at next year’s trade deadline shouldn’t be a problem.

Obviously, the deal is five years long, which may seem prohibitive at first, but Grant will be in demand due to his versatility and skills. Cronin will not face the same problem he encountered in parting with Norman Powell’s five-year deal. The grant is variable, especially during the first few years.


The initial reaction to Grant’s deal was surprise at the size – it was more than most of us had hoped. But the Blazers couldn’t afford not to bring back the talented forward, regardless of whether Damian Lillard was moved over the summer.

We now have clarity on the second half of that sentence. But Grant’s fate is a semi-independent issue from Lillard’s.

If Grant can play at a near All Star level through January, there’s no question he can be moved to a decent enough stretch in January and February of next year.

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