It’s the fall of 2020 and seven-year NBA veteran Jerami Grant has the biggest free agency decision of his career to make. Grant had just gotten eliminated in the Western Conference Finals to Lebron James and the eventual NBA champions, the Los Angeles Lakers.
In a pandemic-stricken season, Grant had emerged in the NBA bubble as a solid option for the Nuggets. Grant averaged 12.7 points per game to go along with 3.2 rebounds per game in the bubble. In a game three win in the Western Conference Finals, Grant finished with 26 points on 66 percent shooting while matching up with Lebron James.
Grant gained national attention with his performance in the bubble, and it was perfect timing for the forward who had just ended his contract and was slated to go into free agency. His success guarding some of the leagues best through the Western Conference playoffs such as Lebron James and Kawhi Leonard had him picking up attention from multiple teams in the offseason.
Although Grant had multiple options in free agency, the Denver Nuggets and the Detroit Pistons were the two teams in a lock willing to pay the necessary deal to lock in the emerging talent.
Grant chose to sign a three-year $60 million deal with the Pistons. Even in the bubble where Grant was playing the best basketball of his career for Denver, he was fighting to be even the third option on a team that already featured Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. In Detroit, he was guaranteed to be the No. 1 option for the Pistons if he continued to play at a high level.
So far it seems that Grant has made the right decision.
With Detroit, Grant has become one of the biggest surprises of the season, and surpassed Carmelo Anthony as Syracuse’s top alumni in the NBA. He’s averaged 25.1 points per game on 46.5 percent shooting, to go with 6.2 rebounds a game. He’s also become a reliable defensive option, averaging nearly two steals and a block per game, as well.
That’s put Grant in line as a favorite for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
Flash back to Jan. 8, when Grant and the Pistons were down 23 points in the second quarter to the Phoenix Suns. Behind Grant’s 31 points on 10 for 15 shooting and 10 rebounds, the Pistons roared back to force overtime and finished with a 110-105 win.
Those nights have become common, with the Pistons becoming more and more confident that they’ve made a great investment in Grant.
“I’m getting more and more comfortable,” Grant said after the win over the Suns. “I think everybody’s doing a good job of making it a little easier, spacing the floor, cutting and things like that. We’re getting more and more comfortable. It’s still a new team. But I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
So too, it seems, is Grant.