Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant will enter the summer of 2023 as one of the top unrestricted free agents on the market, but the 28-year-old forward hinted that Portland has the early edge to re-sign him when asked about his long-term future.
“I’m satisfied right now,” Grant told HoopsHype after scoring a career-high 44 points against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. “I’m really happy with what we’re doing. We’ll just talk about it when it comes.”
After taking a lot of tough threes in Detroit as the offensive focal point, Grant is shooting a career-high 48.2 percent from downtown in a Blazers offense where Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons command a lot of attention. Last season with the Pistons, 64.1 percent of Grant’s field goals were assisted by a teammate, per Basketball-Reference. This season in Portland, that figure has increased to 69.2 percent with the help of Lillard and Simons.
“It definitely helped me to prepare for this,” Grant said when reflecting on his time with the Pistons. “Being the No. 1 option and seeing a lot of different coverages, defenses, and double-teams made this a lot easier for me. I’m thankful for my time there. I grew as a player. Now, I’m kind of reaping the benefits.”
Lillard (24 to 26.3) and Simons (17.3 to 23.6) have equally benefited from playing alongside Grant as their scoring averages have increased compared to last season. Lillard, Simons, and Grant are one of only three trios to average 20 or more points each for an NBA team so far this season. Philadelphia’s trio of Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, and James Harden, along with Washington’s trio of Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis, and Kyle Kuzma, are the others to average 20 or more points each.
While Grant’s free agency looms, his coaches and teammates all rave about his impact on and off the court as a major reason for Portland’s resurgence in the West thus far.
“I think he’s added a layer to our team on both ends of the floor,” Lillard told HoopsHype before the Blazers faced the Nets at Barclays Center. “A lot of times, he’s taking the toughest matchup defensively. He’s using his size, length and athleticism to be disruptive and give guys like Anfernee and myself the opportunity to play off the ball and not wear ourselves out on the defensive end of the floor every possession and then have to go score and make plays as much as we do offensively. On offense, he’s been able to score in isolation, transition, hit catch-and-shoot threes, and post up. He’s doing so many different things for us on both ends of the floor. He’s so versatile. It’s made us a much better team having him.”
“He has this very infectious personality,” Blazers coach Chauncey Billups added. “He’s smiling all the time. He’s this really kind-spirited dude. He’s always positive, no matter if we won or lost. His demeanor never changes. He’s quickly become one of the leaders of our group.”
Within the locker room, there’s a belief the Blazers can make noise in the playoffs if Lillard can stay healthy. Defensive stopper Gary Payton II is also working his way back to playing shape after recovering from core muscle surgery.
“This is an extremely talented group of guys,” Grant told HoopsHype. “It’s a mix of young and older guys that are veterans who know how to play. It’s a good fit for me. I think we can be really good. What we have, we can win with for sure. We’ve got a lot of talented players who can put the ball in the basket. We’ve got a lot of defenders. We’ve got rebounders. We’ve got a bit of everything. I think we can be really good. We are good now. We can be a lot better, so I’m looking forward to it.”
To keep Grant, Portland may have to offer a maximum contract, given his shooting efficiency and defensive versatility to guard four positions. It’s a scenario the Blazers and Lillard, who desperately wants to win a championship with the clock ticking on his prime, likely will accept if Portland can continue to show its closer to competing in the West.
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