It’s the calm before the storm of roster turmoil for the Portland Trail Blazers. After another season ended in disappointment, even with a career year from star Damian Lillard, the team will look to retool the roster to make it back to the playoffs. While they’ll add players through the draft, the Blazers have decisions to make on their own free agents, such as Jerami Grant.
Grant started 63 games for the Blazers in his first and only year with the team, playing an important role at forward for the squad, and with near career highs in many categories, it certainly wasn’t his fault that the team fell short of its goals this season.
Just because Grant has proven his worth to the team, however, doesn’t mean he’s assured to come back. Grant will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and at 29 years old, he’ll be looking for his last big contract to solidify his wealth and role on an NBA team.
If Grant asks for too much money, the Blazers may be reticent to overspend for a player who has never made an NBA All-Star team.
As the Blazers puzzle through the decision around Grant, what kind of deal does he deserve? What kind of deal might he ask for? What are the Blazers prepared to offer, and is there a limit to how much they can and will spend?
All of these questions are being asked in Portland’s front office.
How did Jerami Grant play overall this season?
To understand what kind of contract Grant might ask for, it’s worth exploring the type of season he had. There’s a common trend in professional sports where athletes will ball out in their contract years and use that boost in their stats and impact to land a hefty sum of cash from a team in free agency.
That wasn’t exactly what happened with Grant, although he had one of his best seasons overall. It was the second-highest scoring season of his career, as he had the most starts and minutes played per game in a season.
Grant also had his fourth-best rebounding campaign, as well his second-best steals season and second-best assists season.
He brought a scoring dimension to the forward spot that the Blazers have been lacking as the first forward since LaMarcus Aldridge to top 20 points a game. Grant’s 3-point shooting reached its pinnacle this season as he topped 40 percent from deep on almost six attempts per game.
Grant also played a valuable role on an admittedly poor defense, almost averaging one steal and one block per game. Although he didn’t have quite the same impact on that end as previous years in Oklahoma City, his length, size, and instincts made him one of the team’s best defenders.
Overall, Grant played the role as second or third banana perfectly, complementing Lillard on offense and covering his bases on defense, which makes him a valuable piece for the Blazers. But just how valuable could he turn out to be?
What kind of contract could Jerami Grant sign this offseason?
Before diving into the nitty-gritty of what kind of contract Grant might deserve and what he might ask for, the background details are important. As mentioned above, Grant is turning 30 next year, which means this is his last chance to sign a big contract before his game starts to depreciate.
Grant is repped by Klutch Sports, Rich Paul’s star-studded agency that also represents players like Lebron James, Trae Young, and Anthony Edwards. While not all of Paul’s clients at Klutch are stars, the agency is known for treating their clients like they are in negotiations and helping many NBA players sign lucrative extensions over the past few years.
On the other end of the equation, the Blazers cap situation is a bit tight. Right now, they’re projected to have the 12-most practical cap space in the NBA this offseason if they renounce their cap holds and pending free agents.
Even though they don’t have a lot of room to sign players, they have Grant’s Bird Rights, which allows them to go over the cap to offer him more money over the life of a contract, alongside an additional contract year.
If they want to, the Blazers could break the bank and sign Grant to a large contract. The question, then, is whether they will or will not.
Right now, Grant is the 27th-highest paid player by average annual value (AAV) and ranks 33rd in total money from his last contract extension.
As the salary cap rises and contract values increase, Grant and Klutch will likely look to secure a contract much larger than his current one. Their floor will likely be a four- or five-year deal at $30 million AAV with their starting anchor much higher than that.
It’s unlikely that the Blazers will go much higher than that, however. Other than Tobias Harris and Michael Porter Jr., all the other players making more than $30 million per year are perennial all-star level players. Quite simply, Grant is not that.
If Jerami asks for too large of a deal, the Blazers may be forced into a catch-22 situation: Will they overpay for a player who is below all-star level or let a player go whom they traded for last summer and won’t have cap space to replace?
Will the Portland Trail Blazers retain Jerami Grant?
With a number of important decisions to make for their roster, the most consequential outside of what the Blazers do with their lottery pick is whether or not they keep Grant. While he’s not a true star talent, the Blazers might not be able to find a player that does what he does with the money they have.
Grant is the only player the team can go above their cap number to re-sign, and it’s not like players are beating down the door to sign with Portland anyway. If one of the names that Lillard mysteriously referenced as wanting to come to the Blazers makes their intentions known, maybe the team would reconsolidate, but Grant’s all they have right now.
It may be an overpay and a contract that is harder to swallow as it ages, but whether Grant deserves it or not, it’s likely that the Trail Blazers agree to a deal with him above their desired ceiling, as the outcome of losing him for nothing is a cataclysmic scenario that the team can’t afford if they want to contend.