How Jerami Grant’s trade situation differs from last year’s Aaron Gordon deal – and how it doesn’t

Detroit Bad Boys

The stove is heating up in advance of the 2022 NBA trade deadline, which falls just over two weeks from now on Feb. 10. The question on every Detroit Pistons fan’s mind leading up to that deadline is whether or not Jerami Grant will be traded. While it’s far from guaranteed that Grant will be shipped out, it’s starting to feel like a “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” type of situation.

This begs the follow-up question, what will the return for Jerami look like if he is traded before the deadline?

Potential trade packages centered around Grant are being floated with regularity this season, and especially since he left the active lineup with a thumb injury Dec. 10. With a Grant deal seeming more likely than ever as of late, Pistons fans have been cautioned to manage their expectations for a potential return package as Jerami’s value around the league may not be as high as portrayed in some of the fake trade scenarios fans are cooking up.

As a frame of reference, those interested in Grant’s value have commonly been pointed to last year’s Aaron Gordon deal between the Orlando Magic and the Denver Nuggets. The trade saw Gordon dealt to the Nuggets for a return package of Gary Harris, R.J. Hampton and a protected first round pick in 2025.

The framework around this deal has since been used to gauge the trade value of a mid-20s, 3&D wing such as Grant: a veteran contract (Harris), a young player with some intrigue (Hampton, who was drafted 24th overall in 2020) and a pick.

As the Nuggets brought in Gordon to play essentially the same role Grant occupied before leaving Denver for Detroit, it’s been easy to group the two into the same category of trade chip. In turn, expectations have shifted for Jerami’s trade return to be similar to what Orlando received in the aforementioned Gordon deal.

With this in mind, it’s important to remember that Gordon and Grant are different players with a different set of circumstances surrounding their trade situations. It’s entirely possible that these discrepancies could open up opportunities for Pistons’ GM Troy Weaver to get back a better return for his best trade asset than the Magic received for Gordon.

I dove into the commonalities and differences between Grant and Gordon (as players and the situations around them), and tried to make sense of what they mean for Grant’s trade value in preparation of this year’s deadline.

The similarities

Contract

The first thing to look at when analyzing Grant’s trade situation vs. Gordon’s is the contract that comes with the player. In considering this, we get our first glaring similarity between the two scenarios.

Any team that trades for Grant will have him for the remainder of this season and next at the reasonable price point of $20 million a year. It was essentially the same for Gordon, with a marginally smaller price tag.

On the surface, this would mean that any team acquiring Grant could use him as a one-and-a-half year rental, or they could offer him a hefty extension before his contract is up. However, according to a recent piece by Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, any team to trade for Grant will need “assurances” of his plans to re-sign this offseason, as Gordon did with Denver.

In general, Grant holds more value than a half-season rental whose contract would run out in the coming offseason. Regardless, interested teams know they would have to pay up if they wanted to keep Grant’s services for the long run. Jerami is eligible for a four-year extension up to $112 million in the coming offseason, and the expectation is that he would “command most” of that money.

Archetype / projected role

As things stand, the role Grant played with the Pistons before his injury is vastly different than the one Gordon is currently playing with the Nuggets. In Denver, Gordon is being relied upon for his defense, rebounding and spot-up shooting. On the Pistons, Jerami was utilized heavily and often to create his own shot and score in bunches prior to the thumb injury.

Despite his role with Detroit, many figure a team trading for Grant would likely do so with a 3&D role as the third or fourth option on the team in mind, which aligns with the role Denver had lined up for Gordon. Contrary to that thought, Fischer says Grant “has little interest in joining a new situation where he doesn’t feature as a primary offensive option,” according to his sources.

Even though Grant has showcased the capability to do more during his time in Detroit, it’s unlikely that he’ll have as much freedom with the ball in his next destination. Any potential trade partner will probably be looking to trade for him as more of a role player, and they will presumably expect to see that reflected in whatever package they are willing to part with.

Talent

There are two sides of the coin on this one, and the other side will be covered at a later point in this piece. For now, we can conveniently look to Grant’s time in Denver to compare how he stacks up against Gordon in the same role.

Looking at Gordon’s first full season with the Nuggets this year vs. Grant’s lone season playing for Denver in 2019-20, it appears the two performed at fairly similar levels with some minor discrepancies sprinkled in. Jerami is a more effective three-point shooter, while Gordon is more efficient inside the arc. Gordon has been more impactful on the glass, while Grant was a smidge better on the defensive end.

There is also the factor of Gordon being thrust into a more prominent role than Grant played with the Nuggets. Jamal Murray was injured just a few weeks after Gordon was dealt for and still hasn’t returned, while Michael Porter Jr. has missed the majority of this season with an ongoing back injury and might not return this year. This has made Gordon the de-facto number two option in the Nuggets offense, a role which Jerami never had the chance to play in Denver.

I don’t believe Gordon’s upward movement in the Nuggets pecking order has made an entirely instrumental difference in his counting stats (Nikola Jokic handles the load of the Nuggets’ first two options by himself), but it is important to note as it will be discussed later on.

Overall, the impact Gordon is making in Grant’s former role is just about the same as Jerami’s impact before him, signaling that the pair is at least comparable in terms of talent as a 3&D role player.

The differences

Position of the selling franchise

While most of the glaring similarities between Grant and Gordon’s trade situations revolve around how the two compare as players, one of the most crucial differences lies within the state of the two franchises involved at the time of selling on the players.

Last year around this time, the Magic were stuck in franchise purgatory without a clear direction (a position Pistons fans became very familiar with over the past ten years). Many of the players the regime had invested in over the prior years had reached the age that they should be ready to compete. Instead, Orlando found itself in the midst of a season devoid of playoff hope yet again, and it was evident that things needed to change.

That’s why, when Nikola Vucevic was traded to the Chicago Bulls earlier in the same day Gordon was eventually dealt, it was made clear to the league that Orlando was clearing house and would part with Gordon for the best offer they could get. As it turns out, Denver was the one to make that offer, and they were able to land Gordon’s services for Harris, Hampton, and a 2025 first-rounder.

The Magic couldn’t do a ton about the position they were forced into. They needed a reset, and dealing Vucevic for a package including the pick that ended up being Franz Wagner was the best way to do that. In a way, the Gordon return can be considered collateral damage as a result of Orlando’s situation. It wasn’t a terrible return by any means, but it was the best the Magic could do with other organizations knowing they were backed into a corner.

The Pistons, on the other hand, are (finally) not in franchise purgatory anymore, and they have a wide array of options moving forward. Among these options is the all important factor:

The Pistons can keep Jerami Grant

Putting aside the debate about whether or not it is ideal to keep Grant for the remainder of the year, most fans would agree it is far from out of the question that things could still work out for Jerami and the Pistons. After all, Grant chose to come to Detroit. He’s shown nothing but love for the city since his arrival and that love has been, for the most part, reciprocated.

The realistic possibility of Grant remaining with the team means Weaver has an option that Orlando never really did; to insist that opposing GM’s meet his demands for a return package, otherwise he has no problem moving forward with Grant on the roster.

Could keeping Grant create some issues with his ability and willingness to mesh with Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey in a scaled back role upon his return? Possibly. Could the Pistons’ incoming 2022 draft pick have a positional conflict with Jerami? Could be. Would the Pistons be forced to move on from Jerami eventually? Probably.

Even knowing all this, the biggest argument for trading Grant is that he’s the Pistons’ best trade asset and now seems like the best time to capitalize on his value. If Detroit isn’t getting that value, what’s the point?

It was only a few months ago that Grant was the unquestioned best player on the Pistons’ roster. The recent rumors have a good portion of the fan base believing it’s a certainty he’s gone, but he’s still here for now. If Grant can come back and flow with the rhythm the rest of the team has created in his absence, it is absolutely in the realm of possibility that he could stay in Detroit for a while longer.

This option is a huge card for Weaver to keep in his back pocket, as it creates a need for other teams to pry Grant from Detroit if they want him, rather than the Pistons shopping him left and right and settling for the best available offer come the deadline.

Rumors that Gordon requested out

Another aspect that affected the Gordon trade saga is that he reportedly requested out in the weeks leading up to the deadline. This is another factor showcasing the differences in leverage between the Magic’s situation with Gordon last year and the Pistons’ with Grant this year.

Similar to the position of the selling franchise above, the fact that Gordon grew tired of the trade rumors and ended up asking out before being dealt is another factor which negatively affected the leverage the Magic held in the situation.

On the flip side, as previously mentioned, Jerami has shown no indications of wanting to leave Detroit. In fact, it’s essentially the opposite. Many fans have expressed that they would not approve of trading Grant unless it was something discussed with him and agreed upon prior to the deal being made.

With Grant’s stamp of approval from the city and the fact that few free agents choose to come to Detroit traditionally, it makes the situation regarding Jerami a little more delicate. The Pistons will want to be careful about how they handle a trade, knowing that the next free agent they go after will likely call Jerami to get his thoughts on organization. All of this could feasibly make the possibility of trading Grant a little less enticing for Weaver.

As a result, a team making a move for him will presumably need to make it worth the Pistons’ while.

Amount of interested teams

We’re starting to see a theme here. While the similarities between Grant and Gordon’s respective trade scenarios centered mostly around the commonalities between them as players – as well as their projected roles and contracts the most important differences focus on the areas that affect the leverage held by the selling organization.

In this regard, I’m apt to believe the amount of potential suitors for Jerami will be helpful to the Pistons, as it seems there are noticeably more interested parties than there were in Gordon last year.

Leading up to Gordon’s deal, the most interested suitors appeared to be the Nuggets, Trail Blazers, Timberwolves and Celtics. There were times where rebuilding franchises like the Rockets and even the Pistons were reported to be interested in Gordon, but it seemed pretty evident that Gordon would eventually go to a contender.

Most of the teams with serious interest in Gordon either didn’t have the ability or weren’t willing to offer Orlando a package better than the one they eventually accepted from Denver. When there are only so many interested parties in an asset and the only reasonable option is to trade him for the best offer, the return will often be underwhelming.

As of this time, it does not look like Detroit will have that problem. Other trades will almost certainly be made to take some teams out of the Grant sweepstakes, but as of now there has been interest reported from the Wizards, Trail Blazers, Lakers, Hawks, Bulls, Pacers, Grizzlies, Jazz, Suns.

Not only are there a bevvy of suitors for Grant that Weaver can use to create a bidding war for his services, but many of these teams are actual contenders that could perceivably look a lot more dangerous with Grant.

Subjectively, it just feels like the demand for Grant has already surpassed that of Gordon in the prior season. Only time will tell if that is true, but it at least appears the number of interested parties is far more for Jerami than there ever were for Gordon.

Talent (again)

This is the flip side of the coin mentioned in the previous section, as the talent level of Grant and Gordon can be viewed as both similar and different, in my humble opinion.

Though we already covered how Gordon and Grant offer similar value when placed into the same role, we cannot completely discount what Jerami has done in his time as a top option with the Pistons.

Again, a team trading for Grant will probably to do so with the idea that he will be a 3&D role player as a third or fourth option on the team. Even so, what kind of bonus does Jerami’s proven ability to step up when thrust into a role as a top option do for his value?

Imagine a team like the Bulls analyzing a potential Grant trade. Chicago knows better than most how much a team can be affected by injury, as they recently lost Derrick Jones Jr. for a few weeks to a bone bruise and had a scare with star guard Zach Lavine, who thankfully avoided an extended absence but is still missing games with a knee injury. The Bulls also lost second-year stud Patrick Williams earlier this year with a season-ending wrist injury.

For a team like the Bulls with legitimate playoff aspirations, does Jerami’s ability to step up in a situation where a top option goes down provide a boost to his value? It’s possible. Regardless, Jerami has showcased capabilities of a first or second option that Gordon has never truly matched.

What does this mean for Jerami’s value and potential return?

On the surface, it’s clear why a potential Grant trade is being compared to Gordon’s last year. They are the same archetype of player with a very similar contract, presumably being dealt to a contender who believes the player will assist in their championship pursuit.

Despite these similarities, there are big differences in leverage between the Magic’s situation last year and the Pistons’ this year. How much this leverage makes a difference in Detroit’s return package compared to Orlando’s remains to be seen. However, I would advise that this aspect should not be discounted.

All it takes for the Pistons’ return to surpass that of the Magic’s is one organization to decide Jerami’s services are worth meeting Trader Troy’s asking price. With the amount of parties positioned to bid for Grant’s services, not to mention Detroit’s ability to keep him if a sufficient offer is not received, I would venture to say the Pistons are in a much better position to capitalize on Grant’s value than the Magic were last year with Gordon.

Something to note, Fischer’s article revealed that one team analyst referred to Grant as “the grand prize” of this year’s trade deadline.

This is not to say that Pistons fans’ dream of acquiring Patrick Williams and a pick from the Bulls for Grant will come true (though I refuse to give up hope). Still, I have faith in Weaver’s ability to turn the leverage he has into an appropriate return for Grant. I’ll go on record and say that, if a package similar to Gary Harris, R.J. Hampton, and a draft pick three years from now is the best the Pistons can do, they are better off holding onto him.

If Weaver has this same mentality, I maintain my optimism that the package it will take to pry Jerami out of Detroit will be a satisfactory return for Pistons fans. No matter what happens, it will be a long few weeks of anticipation as fans watch the situation unfold.

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