If Jerami Grant is this good, what else does Pistons’ Troy Weaver have up his sleeve?

Detroit Free Press

Shawn Windsor
| Detroit Free Press

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If he’d been in this spot before, it certainly wasn’t in Denver, or Oklahoma City, or Philadelphia, the three stops Jerami Grant made before landing with the Detroit Pistons in the fall. But there he was, hanging in the corner, waiting to run to the top of the key to set a pick for Delon Wright with some 20 seconds left in the game.  

This wasn’t just a big man setting a screen to free a little man, though. This was a big man setting a screen to make it easier for him to get the ball and a favorable matchup. 

Grant waited for his teammates to get in position, then ran to Wright, slipped to the right, took the pass from Wright, surveyed the spacing, took off into the lane, elevated, and wrapped a pass around a defender to Mason Plumlee. 

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Plumlee laid it in and tied the game, forcing overtime. 

Almost five minutes later, Grant hit the knockout shot from the corner, a 3-pointer, the last of his 31 points for the night, and his second game in a row scoring 31. 

If this is what Pistons general manager Troy Weaver imagined, then look out. If he saw this in Grant, this end-of-the-game presence, this level of calm and belief that he, now, is the man, well, again, look out

Weaver arrived with a reputation for spotting talent, specifically for spotting talent as it fits into a larger vision. And of all the moves he has made, none jump out more than the signing of Grant. 

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In Denver, Grant was the third or fourth option. Long, yes. Athletic, yes. Defensive-minded, yes. A spot-up shooter, yes. 

But because Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray were the primary playmakers, Grant hadn’t the chance to show he could be one. That opportunity is what he sought. The belief he could do that is why Weaver signed him.  

Where, then, does Grant go from here? What is his ceiling?  

Jimmy Butler? 

I don’t know. Four months ago, few were thinking Grant was a No. 2 option. So, no, don’t expect me to place limits on what’s ahead for the 26-year-old forward.  

Maybe it’s somewhere between a first and second option. Or maybe it is a comp like Butler, who found a coach and GM in Miami that fit his basketball mind and soul. 

If that’s the case for Grant here, if he is beginning his ascension to a place almost no one thought possible, and if Weaver keeps finding gems to stock the roster, then these Pistons will start surprising a lot more of us a whole lot sooner than we thought. 

And yet … the Pistons are 2-7. There is a long way to go. 

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But there is a path. It’s not just because of Grant. 

Rookies Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart already are contributing, and Bey is playing like a starter, which makes sense, because he has started three games and has averaged 25-plus minutes in his past five.   

Plumlee didn’t just score to send the game into overtime. His rebounding, screen-setting and understanding of the game is invaluable to the youngsters. And whether he is here when the team truly becomes competitive is beside the point. 

Weaver spent money on him to help the franchise get there. The same is true of Josh Jackson, though he didn’t cost near as much as Plumlee, and before he hurt his ankle against Boston a week ago, he, too, had been a minor revelation. 

All of these performances are giving Weaver credibility, or should be, as he begins rebuilding the Pistons in his vision. Think about them as you consider Killian Hayes, whom Weaver took with the No. 7 pick in the draft, and who struggled in limited minutes before he suffered a labral tear in his right hip. Weaver is convinced he saw something special in Hayes, too. 

The 19-year-old rookie may or may not play again this season. And if he’s done for the season, the lost developmental time is a blow. 

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But Hayes is also playing the most difficult position on the floor, and he’s coming from another continent — not everyone can be like Luka Doncic — and his struggles were the result of a steep learning curve as much as anything else. 

It’s easy to focus on his turnovers and missed shots, especially from deep. He will have to get better at both, obviously. Yet before you give up on him, or declare his NBA career a bust, remember that a handful of his teammates are suddenly doing things few thought they could. 

Hayes, more than anything, looks wide-eyed and tentative. He plays with too much deference. Not just to opponents, but to his teammates. This is understandable.  

Once he figures out how to relax, how coach Dwane Casey wants him to play, how to slow the game in his head a bit, then we will see what kind of player he might become. 

Unfortunately, that might be a while.  

In the meantime, the rest of the roster moves forward, led by an emerging, 6-9, playmaker in Grant, who is proving Weaver sees things others don’t. 

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Grant didn’t just drain the dagger 3-pointer Friday night in the comeback win against Phoenix. He’d made some big shots in Denver, too. 

He also made the winning play to get the Pistons to overtime, and made it as if he’d been doing it all along. 

“I’m very impressed with his patience and his decision-making,” Blake Griffin said postgame. “He doesn’t settle. He’ll size somebody up … His decision-making is unbelievable. It’s only going to get better as we go on, as we get to know each other better and better.” 

If you hear a little surprise in his voice, well, of course you do. Grant’s decision-making has been “unbelievable.” 

Because he hadn’t been in that position to make such decisions. Now he is. Thanks to an inner belief. And thanks to Weaver, who is showing with every game he just might know what he is doing. 

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