Beard: Budding star Jerami Grant can become a big deal in Detroit

Detroit News

Rod Beard
 
| The Detroit News

Looking at the rosters, there wasn’t much comparison between the Detroit Pistons and Denver Nuggets.

The Nuggets made a surprise trip to the Western Conference finals before falling to the eventual-champion Los Angeles Lakers. The Pistons were coming off a 20-46 season and were one of the eight teams not invited to the Orlando bubble to finish the regular season.

As Jerami Grant was trying to decide where he wanted to play this season, it was more of a personal decision than simply looking at the roster or the standings. The Nuggets are one of the few true contenders in the West and Grant was a surprising piece of their playoff run.

Grant wants something more.

It was something of a surprise when reports surfaced that Grant, an unrestricted free agent, decided to join the Pistons instead of returning to the comfort and familiarity he had grown to enjoy in Denver.

Pistons general manager Troy Weaver seemed to lean on a relationship he had built with Grant when Weaver was in the front office with the Oklahoma City Thunder, where Grant played from 2017-19. In each of those seasons, Grant made strides in improving his game.

More: With free-agent additions, GM Troy Weaver works to shift Pistons culture, identity

Weaver is giving Grant, 26, a chance to be a major contributing piece of the roster. 

“He’s come here because it’s a big challenge. I’m going to challenge him to be the best Jerami he can become. I expect him to continue to grow,” Weaver said Wednesday via teleconference. “I don’t campaign for players, but I’ll say this right now: This guy is worthy of being an all-defensive team player, for sure.

“The defensive mindset, who he is, and his offense that people were able to see blossom in the bubble, which he brings to us here in Detroit now, along with his youth — he’s 26 years old and just hitting his prime. We’re excited about everything he brings to the table, as a young man and as a player.”

According to reports, Grant received the same offer of three years and $60 million from the Nuggets, but there’s something to be said about being viewed as a centerpiece and the front office showing an immediate desire to put resources in place to help in the progression.

And it’s definitely not a decision based on weather, so there’s something there.

“It was the belief that Troy had in me and the belief that I had in myself and I knew this would be a challenge and I’m open to challenges,” Grant said Wednesday. “It definitely wasn’t a no-brainer; it definitely was a tough decision for me, but at the same time, I think I made the right decision.”

It looks like Grant will fit nicely in the starting lineup next to Blake Griffin at forward, with another former Nuggets big man, Mason Plumlee, at center. A cynic would suggest that there was some acrimony or infighting, but the Nuggets just fell a little short against the Lakers after tough series against the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers.

The easy decision would have been to try to keep the band together and try to run it back, hoping maybe the chips would fall differently for them. Leaving the Nuggets wasn’t an easy choice, but Grant said it was best for his development.

“It was tough. I was in a situation where I was comfortable. I love my teammates. I love the organization,” Grant said. “It was a lot of things that made me teeter between my decision. At the end of the day, I made the best decision for me in my career.

“My growth as a player is extremely important to me and it was the challenge that intrigued me and I’m happy with it.”

What’s striking about Grant is that he’s still improving and isn’t nearly a finished product. Weaver has high praise for the young forward, but there’s some of that same belief from Grant that he can produce at a much higher level.

In a situation where he can play many more minutes in a more prominent position, it’s a win-win situation.

“As my confidence has grown and I put a lot of work in in the offseason, and during the season, trying to come back each year with something extra, something that I could add to my game,” Grant said. “I think I’ve done that.

“I think have a lot of room for improvement. I’m still relatively young, not extremely young, but I’ll be in my prime in a few years and I have a lot of room for growth all over the court.”

There’s plenty more time for him to grow on and off the court — and doing it as a centerpiece for the Pistons for years to come.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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