Jerami Grant free agency: His stock and potential destinations

HoopsHype is continuing its free agency series where we look at some of the best upcoming free agents. Here we check their stock, see what their next contract could look like, and weigh their odds of re-signing with their current team.

Below we evaluate one of the top upcoming free agents, Jerami Grant. The nine-year veteran forward has had one of the league’s most significant yet gradual improvements over the years. He’s exceeded expectations over and over again and is on track to earn another big contract this offseason.

Free agent stock

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Jerami Grant undoubtedly had his best year in the NBA and was worthy of All-Star consideration at the beginning of the season. He’s averaging 20.5 points per game, 4.5 rebounds per game, and a career-high 2.3 three-pointers per game.

When he signed a three-year, $60 million deal with the Pistons in 2020, it caught a lot of us off guard because it felt like he was a lock to re-sign with the Nuggets after helping them reach the Western Conference Finals with them. He went to Detroit largely for the elevated offensive role where he’d have the ball in his hands a lot more. He certainly proved he’s capable of more offensive responsibilities in his time in Detroit, but perhaps best not as a first option.

Portland was a great match for him because he got the perfect balance of keeping a higher usage on offense but in more of a secondary and tertiary role. He is scoring at the same rate and with the same rate of attempts per game as in his second Pistons season, but on career-best efficiency. His 40.1 percent from three on 5.7 attempts per game and his 60.6 percent true shooting are all career highs, all while averaging the third most shot attempts per game behind Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons.

It goes without saying that Grant’s stock is as high as it’s ever been. While he may not be the best upcoming free agent with guards like James Harden and Kyrie Irving set to hit the market, Grant may be the most pursued. This is due to his age (29) and his versatility. He can be plugged into just about any team with cap space and immediately make a positive impact.

Chances of re-signing

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Despite Grant’s success in his first season with the Blazers, the team fell well below expectations. That isn’t a fault on him or other top players on the team, but more an indictment on the level of talent on the rest of the roster. With Lillard, Grant, Simons, and Jusuf Nurkic all occupying two-thirds of this year’s $150.3 million luxury tax amount, that left little flexibility toward upgrading the backend of the roster. Tax concerns led them to move Josh Hart at this year’s trade deadline, significantly hurting their talent level this year.

Along with acquiring a first-round pick, the Hart trade accomplished another thing: opening up flexibility for next season toward re-signing Grant. The Blazers are projected to enter the 2023 offseason $40 million below the projected $162 million luxury tax. That projection includes 11 players already rostered, including two first-round picks.

Grant is currently eligible to extend with the Blazers for up to four years, $112.7 million. He became eligible to sign it in January when his six-month trade restriction expired, but he confirmed that he plans on entering free agency instead. He can earn up to the maximum as a free agent, either five years $233.2 million with Portland, or four years, $172.9 million with another team.

A maximum contract, which would give him a starting salary of $40.2 million, is too rich for a non-All-Star. But he has arguably outplayed the maximum extension amount he is eligible for, which would give him an average annual salary of $28 million. There’s probably a middle ground, perhaps in the $33 million annual range, that makes sense for both sides.

For example, would a five-year, $170 million deal be enough to keep Grant away from interested teams? Such a framework could include Grant earning a maximum salary for next season and just $27.3 million in the last season with full eight percent annual decreases, making it very team-friendly for the Blazers.

Other candidates outside of his current team

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Portland’s disappointing season could make them a team to keep an eye on in case they decide to pivot into a rebuild. As long as Lillard remains committed to them, they seem likely to continue to remain as competitive as possible. But even if things were to change, the Blazers still seem likely to pursue re-signing Grant. After giving up a future first-round pick for him, they can’t just let him walk. It would make sense to at least re-sign him to a long-term deal and then trade him later if they change direction.

The Rockets and Pacers are cap space teams that could make sense to pursue Grant in free agency, provided they’re looking to make a playoff push next season. Both teams could use a forward like him and have more than enough cap space to offer Grant a deal that exceeds his maximum extension amount.

The Thunder are another team that could make sense, though adding him to the mix could take away minutes from key young players in their rotation. The Pistons also have more cap space than they can spend. Perhaps they could be open to a reunion with Grant?

Though unlikely, some teams that would be great fits for Grant through a sign-and-trade include the Hawks, Nets, Bulls, Cavaliers, Mavericks, Heat, and Kings. Out of those teams, the Kings project to have the most flexibility to acquire Grant in a sign-and-trade while being able to field a team below the hard cap they’d be subjected to.

You can follow Yossi Gozlan (@YossiGozlan) on Twitter.

Story originally appeared on HoopsHype