With the NBA Finals starting up this week, the other 28 teams are re-calibrating. The NBA Draft Lottery earlier this month helped put things in perspective for half of the league, setting the table for what should be an unpredictable offseason.
The Pistons are among the teams with the potential to get a little crazy this summer. The franchise has the No. 5 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, a fair amount of cap space to use in free agency and, in forward Jerami Grant, one of the more realistic trade chips across the league. Grant’s potential availability, though, remains a mystery. Detroit general manager Troy Weaver wasn’t wowed when teams made inquiries at last year’s trade deadline, so he instead elected to keep Grant through the season. Now, Weaver and Co. have the option to extend Grant’s contract, which currently has one year left, or take in more potential trade packages for his services, which should be more concrete and intriguing at this stage of the NBA calendar.
The Portland Trail Blazers have been the team linked most to Grant over the last few months and, per sources, remain among the most interested in acquiring Grant via trade. The Trail Blazers fell to the No. 7 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft and appear to be more interested in “retooling” around Damian Lillard rather than executing a full-on rebuild. It’s possible they could use that pick to land a more proven entity to put next to their soon-to-be 32-year-old star.
But what if Portland doesn’t trade the No. 7 pick or uses it to acquire someone other than Grant? Who are the other potential suitors for Grant?
There is one candidate who makes a little more sense than any other: the Atlanta Hawks. After shocking the world in 2021 with a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals, Atlanta put together a disappointing follow-up season, falling into the Play-In Tournament and eventually losing to the Miami Heat in five games in the first round. The Hawks certainly need to make some tweaks to get back to where they believe they belong on their timeline. Atlanta showed some form of interest in Grant during the 2021-22 season, per sources, and The Athletic believes that the interest still stands.
The Athletic’s beat writers Chris Kirschner (Hawks) and James L. Edwards III (Pistons) discuss both teams’ interest in a potential trade involving Grant, what it might look like, Grant’s fit with Atlanta and more. This conversation has been edited for both length and clarity
Edwards: Let’s start here, Chris: I’ve heard that the Hawks had interest in Grant around the deadline and still maintain interest. What have you heard?
Kirschner: This is several months ago now, but at one point prior to the deadline, they were interested in him. As it got closer to the actual deadline day, they had dropped out of the race. Fast forward to now and the interest is there once again.
The 2022 playoffs showed the Hawks’ front office that they need a few more players on the wing who can create their shot off the dribble. Miami’s defense swallowed Trae Young and made Atlanta beat them with anyone else, and they couldn’t. Hawks owner Tony Ressler made it publicly known that his team would ideally like to add some ball handlers who can also defend, which was another issue for the Hawks last season. Grant can do both of those things.
Plus— and this is important — he might be the most gettable player who’s available on the trade market. Many will focus on prominent free agents like Zach LaVine or Deandre Ayton — both of whom can only go to Atlanta via a sign-and-trade — but their respective teams can offer the most money possible on a maximum contract. That limits the chances of anyone else, including the Hawks, landing either.
If the Hawks were to pursue Grant this offseason, they have two players with salaries that match up in a potential trade with the Pistons: Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari. Bogdanovic is younger, but he also has a worrisome knee issue that lingered all season and he is expected to address it during the summer. Gallinari has an expiring contract that is guaranteed for $5 million if he’s waived before June 29, so Detroit could create additional cap space if they wanted, or they could just keep him into the season and trade him later on. The Hawks likely would have to part with the team’s 16th pick, too, which seems realistic because I don’t think the team is dead set on adding a rookie in the middle of the first round.
What have you heard regarding the interest surrounding Grant and what are the Pistons looking for if/when they trade him?
Edwards: I think teams like Portland, Atlanta and, maybe Memphis (if it wants to do something) make the most sense. Each has playoff aspirations and good-to-decent trade assets. The first two have, to the best of my knowledge, actually shown interest in Grant in some capacity. As mentioned before, the Trail Blazers don’t seem interested in a long rebuild, and Grant is the type of player they’ve needed for several years. The Hawks want to win now and could use a long, defensively able wing who can also create his own shot. Grant would probably play the 3 rather than the 4 in Atlanta, but I think that’ll be fine. The Grizzlies don’t have to do a single thing, but have the assets and a playoff-ready team to make a move if they chose.
I think Weaver ideally wants a team to “wow” him with an offer, at least relative to Grant’s abilities as a player. A top-10 pick (Portland) would do it, and I get the sense the Pistons are holding out to see if that possibility is realistic. I think that would be their first choice. If not, a good player and a mid-first-round pick could suffice.
So let’s get into that now. I’ll throw the trade out there that makes the most sense and, I believe, could garner some traction as the Pistons’ Plan B or C.
Bogdan Bogdanovic and the No. 16 pick for Grant.
Atlanta does that, right?
Kirschner: I think so. It’s not an exorbitant price and the Hawks already have some a player like Bogdanovic on their roster in Kevin Huerter, who was the better of the two last season and is a better defender. Adding Grant in place of Bogdanovic would balance Atlanta’s roster, which is needed. The Hawks would probably prefer to do this deal with Gallinari instead of Bogdanovic, but the price is fine as is. Bogdanovic and No. 16 for Grant also gives the Hawks significant flexibility to make other big moves this offseason, which they would like to do if the opportunity presents itself.
Edwards: Grant is seeking a contract extension. Do you think Atlanta would give it to him?
Kirschner: This is where things get complicated for the Hawks. They’re already faced with paying the luxury tax for the first time since Ressler bought the franchise in 2015. Does Grant move the needle that much? I think he makes the Hawks better, but he and his representation will likely ask for a deal that pays him like a No. 1 or No. 2 option. If that’s the case, I don’t think I would make that move if I was general manager Travis Schlenk.
If the Hawks could sign Grant to a long-term contract with a similar annual value as the one he’s currently on in Detroit – something around $20 million a year – they should do it. Where it gets dicey is if he’s making north of $25 million a season.
He’s slated to make just shy of $21 million in 2022-23, so he wouldn’t affect the Hawks’ luxury tax bill this year if the deal is Bogdanovic and No. 16. For what the Hawks want to accomplish though, they’ll have to pay the tax eventually. They need better talent, and higher salaries come with the territory. It’s just about finding the right players to justify paying the tax.
Have you heard anything regarding the salary Grant is looking for on a potential extension? Also, I know this has come up in the past, but what kind of role do you see him wanting? Because if he’s on the Hawks, he’s obviously not going to be the No. 1 option with Trae Young on the team. If he wants to be the No. 2 guy, my guess is the Hawks will try landing someone better.
Edwards: The vibe I’ve received is that Grant wants a deal in the ballpark of four years and $112 million, which is the highest a potential extension for him can reach. That’s, roughly, $28 million per year, which is higher than what you suggested would be “dicey” for the Hawks. Of course, any player is going to want to get as much as possible.
Now, that might not be the number he seeks if he’s negotiating with a team like the Hawks, who feel like a certain playoff team for the duration of his next contract unless things completely go south. Maybe he’s willing to take less to commit to a team other than the Pistons, who are moving forward with promise, but remain in a “restoring” stage.
How do you see Grant fitting in as a 3 with the Hawks rather than a 4, which is the position he primarily played in Detroit?
Kirschner: The Hawks have to upgrade their starting small forward spot. What De’Andre Hunter showed for the entirety of this year didn’t inspire much confidence that he should have that spot locked in going into next season. Grant is a much better player than Hunter right now, but the latter has the higher ceiling.
I don’t think the Hawks should give up on Hunter, who’s extension eligible this offseason. But they also shouldn’t be rushing to give him a long-term deal. The hope is that a healthy offseason can get Hunter back to looking like the player he was at the start of the 2019-20 season, before his meniscus tear. If he can’t get back to that level and ends up playing like he did this season, he’s ultimately topping out as a great seventh or eighth man on a title team. Put simply, Hunter’s presence on the roster shouldn’t stop the Hawks from pursuing any potential upgrade that might overlap at his position.
Any final thoughts on what happens with Grant this offseason?
Edwards: I’m still 50-50 on if he stays or goes. It makes sense to keep him if the Pistons want to push for the postseason next year, and it also makes sense in terms of long-term roster construction if they end up with, let’s say, Bennedict Mathurin or Shaedon Sharpe in the draft. It doesn’t make sense to keep Grant if Keegan Murray is the pick, or if one of Jabari Smith or Paolo Banchero falls to No. 5. In the end, none of that could matter anyway because the Pistons might decide they don’t want to pay Grant beyond this season given their current state as a franchise.
I think, though, that there will be legitimate trade proposals on the table that’ll make the Pistons think hard. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve gathered that Detroit is waiting around to see if the Trail Blazers will put the No. 7 on the table. I also get the sense, as it appears you did, that the deal I proposed to you (Bogdanovic and No. 16 for Grant) has been discussed in some capacity, whether lightly or strongly.
Lastly, a trade like this falls in line with what Weaver said a few weeks back when asked about building his roster in the offseason:
Weaver on if trade market is better avenue for team building than free agency for Detroit: “I like trades. Free agency can be a little tricky. I feel good about our process either way. People thought Jerami was an overpay, accept for Rod …” lol
— James Edwards III (@JLEdwardsIII) April 12, 2022
Bogdanovic checks boxes that Detroit needs to be checked. He’s under contract, likely, for two seasons and, if we’re being honest, is as good an offensive player as any guard the Pistons could reasonably get in free agency this summer.
It feels like we’re gearing up for an entertaining offseason.