The Los Angeles Lakers have won five of their last seven games, and appear to be making a few strides towards turning some things around. Still, this team remains a bit imbalanced, with a roster bookended by multiple seven-footers and small combo guards, but lacking much substance on the wings between those two positional groups. Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant has long been one of fans’ favorite names to potentially solve that problem, and in good news on Monday morning, while a deal doesn’t sound imminent, it does appear to be a real possibility.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic’s latest “Inside Pass” column, the Lakers are among at least two teams — along with the Portland Trail Blazers — with interest in trading for Grant. Importantly, Shams also added the tidbit that Detroit is actually “open” to dealing its best player and embracing more of a rebuild:
Jerami Grant is one of the most sought-after players in a potential trade, with the Lakers and Trail Blazers among the teams pursuing the Pistons’ versatile forward, sources said. Grant will miss extended time with torn ligaments in his right thumb, but that is not expected to impact his trade market. Dozens of teams call the Detroit front office about Grant each week, and sources said the team is open to a possible deal.
Grant has one season remaining on his deal after this campaign and is eligible for a four-year extension worth up to $112 million in the offseason. Interested teams understand Grant will command most of his maximum salary in an extension next summer, a scenario similar to when the Nuggets made the trade for Magic forward Aaron Gordon with a significant interest to complete a subsequent extension when the sides were eligible to negotiate.
Grant is a player Lakers fans have thirsted after for a while, and has been connected to the team multiple times by Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, one of the more plugged-in sources of Lakers trade info. It’s pretty easy to see why: He was basically built in a lab to solve this team’s current issues.
A 6-8 wing with the ability to play — and guard — both forward slots at a high level, Grant has also shown the ability to work as a No. 1 option on offense after leaving the Denver Nuggets in search of that type of opportunity in Detroit, averaging 21.6 points per game on 41.6% shooting over his 1.5 seasons with the Pistons so far. Additionally, he played with Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony in Oklahoma City, so he has some synergy with this roster, and shot 38.9% from three in his only season in Denver playing the type of 3-and-D role the Lakers would mainly be asking from him.
Unfortunately, he was just ruled out for at least the next six weeks with a UCL ligament (right thumb) sprain, but if he’s able to return and look anything like himself prior to the deadline, he would basically be a supercharged version of everything this team is praying Trevor Ariza can give them, plus a whole lot more.
However, as with any trade rumors, there are some complicating factors. For one thing, the Pistons would have to be interested in what the Lakers have to offer, obviously, and there is no indication in the above report from Shams that either Portland or Los Angeles are very far along on that front.
For the Lakers, just to make salaries work, Detroit would almost certainly have to be interested in Talen Horton-Tucker, who is making $9.5 million this season and is one of only two Lakers — along with Kendrick Nunn ($5 million) — outside of the Big Three of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook making more than the minimum. Since none of those three stars are getting traded, and given that Grant is due approximately $20 million this season, the Pistons would likely at minimum have to be interested in Nunn and Horton-Tucker (along with some veteran’s minimum salary filler) just to make a trade work under the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement.
Now, the Lakers could throw in some draft picks to make the deal more worth Detroit’s while. They don’t own their own 2022 first-round pick, but could agree to trade their 2024/2025 first-rounder (whichever the Pelicans don’t choose as a result of the Davis trade), for example. I’m not going to masquerade as an outgoing draft capital rules expert, but this is just to illustrate that the team does have some assets they can swap out to Detroit to sweeten the deal if they really want Grant, as cap expert Yossi Gozlan pointed out on Twitter as well:
Lakers offer would certainly include THT + Nunn + 1 minimum player to match salaries. They could also attach a 2027 or 2028 first.— Yossi Gozlan (@YossiGozlan) December 13, 2021
Blazers can offer CJ or a combination of Nurk/RoCo/Nance + Little/Simons. Can also attach multiple conditional firsts.
The NBA trade deadline is at 12 p.m. PT on Feb. 10, so these teams still have plenty of time to decide if there are permutations of a deal they like, and it will likely be a lot closer to the deadline before we hear of any real traction. Especially because Horton-Tucker can’t even be traded until Jan. 15 as a result of re-signing this summer using Bird rights, Kendrick Nunn isn’t even expected to play until that month (and we already knew the team has ruled him out for the rest of this month at least), and Grant himself is, as mentioned above, sidelined for the next six weeks or so.
We’ll see if all of these complications are too much to overcome in pursuit of a deal, but if there is one major takeaway from all of Monday’s trade rumor palooza, it’s that the Lakers — between the Grant and Ben Simmons rumors — are at the very least aware of their issues with wing defense and depth, and trying to do what they can to rectify them on the trade market. Grant would be about as good of a fit as possible on paper, but we have a long way to go before we are anywhere close to seeing what he would look like on the court for this team.