Little ol’ Jerami Grant…he of the 39th overall draft pick in 2014, has steadily gone from second-round pick to sought-after free agent. In fact, this offseason, it’s Grant (not Carmelo Anthony) who is the most coveted Syracuse alum on the NBA market.
At 26 years old, Grant is entering his prime and has put together consecutive seasons of double-digit scoring (13.6 PPG in 2018-19 and 12.0 PPG in 2019-20), while knocking down 39 percent of his 3-point attempts as a stretch four. He has become everything that NBA teams look for in a new-age big: long, athletic, able to run and possessing the ability to step out and knock down a jumper.
Not to say that he is among the premier free agents available this offseason, but for a guy who had made a little over 12 million dollars in his career before this past season, Grant is set to make roughly that much per year in his next contract after he opts out of his $9.3 million player option.
There will be no shortage of suitors for Grant’s services when this abbreviated offseason free agency frenzy commences in late November. But, where might be the best fit for Grant?
DENVER: Let’s knock out the incumbent team first. There’s a strong case to be made for Grant staying put. The Nuggets just came off a season in which they went to the Western Conference Finals. Fellow free agent Paul Millsap is probably second fiddle to Grant on Denver’s priority list. That’s because the 35-year old Millsap does not fit Denver’s timeline as well as Grant, relative to Nuggets stars Nikola Jokic (25 years old) and Jamal Murray (23). Denver clearly values Grant, who during the conference finals, was trusted to defend the likes of LeBron James and Anthony Davis in crunch time.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em? There would be worse places Grant could end up than with the defending champions. With guys like Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee (along with other free agents) questionable to return to Los Angeles, the Lakers may have a need for some length on the interior. The Lakers will be nearly the hard cap. So, money may be a sticking point. But, while his production not may be as high beside superstars James and Davis, there may not be a better place for his game to grow than to learn alongside those two.
OKLAHOMA CITY: The “semi-incumbent” Thunder was the home for Grant more than two seasons. When he started, he was a young up-and-comer on a roster with superstar Russell Westbrook. His final season in Oklahoma City (2018-19), he averaged 13.6 points and 5.2 rebounds, rounding into the form of a solid contributor. Now, the Thunder are ripe with young talent like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley and Luguentz Dort and are led by (for now) point guard Chris Paul. Grant, again, fits right into the age timeline of the rest of the roster.
PHOENIX: Let’s keep the youth movement going with the Suns. With superstar Devin Booker, the potential stardom of Deandre Ayton and a young supporting cast of Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson (and possibly Kelly Oubre), the Suns have the makings of a playoff factor in the coming years. Adding a power forward like Grant only helps that cause.
ATLANTA: One more youthful team for you…the Hawks have all SORTS of young talent on the roster: Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, Cam Reddish, Deandre Hunter, John Collins and Clint Capela give the Hawks one of the best collection of young talent in the entire league. Grant, at the very least, would provide insurance for Atlanta, should they choose not to re-sign Collins in the future. With more cap space ($43.2 million) than anyone in the league, the Hawks could provide a nice combination of money and opportunity.
MIAMI: If there is one team that you would think would want to capitalize on its momentum from the NBA bubble, it would be the Miami Heat. They weren’t supposed to have made the NBA Finals. Should they scrap their plan to have 2021 cap space to make a run at Giannis Antetokounmpo in an effort to keep the momentum from the bubble moving? While Jerami Grant is a good player, it doesn’t seem like signing him is worth the risk of them not being able to sign the reigning 2-time Most Valuable Player next offseason.
NEW YORK: The Knicks are a dumpster fire, have been for a while now. What they lack in talent, they could make up for (in Grant’s eyes) in opportunity. Aside from R.J. Barrett and Mitchell Robinson, there are no real building blocks to speak of playing their home games at Madison Square Garden. New York also boasts cap space. So, while Grant could probably see plenty of money and playing time by becoming a Knick, would he really want to go to a franchise that, at this point in time, has no real direction?
In the end, while it is intriguing to think of the long-term potential of going to Phoenix or Atlanta, it seems like that best choices for Grant are either staying put in Denver or joining the purple and gold in Los Angeles. Familiarity and opportunity bode well for Denver to retain Grant. But, they still may be a step away from a championship as long as LeBron James is still in the league and residing in LA. So, if it’s a championship that Grant desires most, becoming a Laker may make the most sense.
Either way, Grant has sure come a long way from his days in a Syracuse uniform to become a hot commodity on the NBA free agent scene.