The Trail Blazers spent the days leading up to the 2022 trade close surgically removing Neil Olshey’s fingerprints from the roster. With Damian Lillard on the mend and Portland in the swamp of the West, new GM Joe Cronin picked up most of the high-priced supporting cast Olshey acquired with Corleone-level ruthlessness – first sending Robert Covington and Norm Powell to the Clippers . and later sell CJ McCollum to the Pelicans. Yields were modest at best — a few young players and a few picks. But it almost gave Cronin a blank canvas to plan out the remaining years of Lillard’s heyday.
Still, Cronin’s first blow sounds fairly familiar to that of his predecessor: A little over 24 hours before Thursday’s NBA draft, Cronin reportedly agreed to hand the 2025 McCollum deal-acquired first-round pick (via Milwaukee) to the Pistons against Jerami Grant to trade, a young veteran who fills a void but may not change the big picture in Portland no matter who owns the team.
Grant, 28, is the kind of jack-of-all-trades, defensive-minded forward that previous versions of the Blazers desperately needed. Two offseasons ago, Olshey resigned two First-round picks for Covington hoping to fill that very hole. But as any blogger will keep telling you without asking, Covington is more of a team defender than a stopper you can throw at the league’s top wings. Grant’s resume is more believable in this regard: In his final postseason with the Nuggets, in the bubble, his most common covers were Kawhi Leonard, Donovan Mitchell, and LeBron James. The Nuggets reportedly would have matched the surprising three-year, $60 million he received from Detroit in the 2020 offseason just to keep that defensive versatility in-house. And while Grant’s attempt to expand his offensive game with the Pistons only yielded superficial results — he nearly doubled his goal average and chances, but did so with mediocre efficiency for poor teams — he’s a far more versatile offensive option than Covington. While Covington is often resigned to the corner waiting for catch-and-shoot opportunities, Grant can do it and add some juice to the Blazers’ offense.
However, the questions are twofold:
1. Are these upgrades worth it? an additional $112 million over four years, the maximum the Blazers Grant can (and probably must) offer for an extension six months after the deal closes? Probably not, in a vacuum, but big wing defenders are just as hard to find as big wings, and if Grant can help help Portland have a credible defense after three straight years in the bottom five, Lillard has shown he can can push this team very far.
2. Is a Portland team with Grant noticeably better than the version Cronin sold six months ago? That’s a little more complicated.
As it stands, this is the essence of Portland:
So Lillard, a small scoring guard, a good guard miscast as a small forward, and a defensive-minded forward? Looks pretty familiar! The Blazers have more financial flexibility than under the previous administration ($44 million less than the luxury tax, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks), but Anferee Simons’ limited freehand deal, as well as a possible new deal for Jusuf Nurkic (or a replacement) could eat that up pretty quickly.
The difference will likely come from the grand prize of Cronin’s February swing of moves: the No. 7 pick the Blazers procured by riding on a Who He Play For-Bonanza through the end of the regular season. But there are no simple solutions there either.
No rookie will offer much positive value next season, let alone a 19-year-old who hasn’t played a single game in his freshman season like Shaedon Sharpe, the current pick at 7 in the wrestler mock draft. And it would be hard to ask Dame ahead of his 32-year season to take his time and see the bigger picture — or worse, buy his association with an extension that paid the 6-foot-2 guard a whopping $55 million could contribute at the age of 36; It’s easier for Steph Curry to trust the institution when the cavalry includes two future Hall of Famers, not a micro-McCollum.
It might make more sense for the Blazers to trade further and trade nos. 7 for another young veteran. Yahoo’s Chris Haynes reported On Wednesday, Portland is chasing Toronto’s OG Anunoby, another athletic, defensively-oriented big wing with room to grow. But even Anunoby or a player of similar age and skill is unlikely to take Portland to the top flight in a West that looks set to be loaded again next season, with the likes of Kawhi, Jamal Murray and Zion Williamson expected to do so Quality teams that didn’t even crack the second round strengthen themselves.
The grant trade looks like better value than some of the moves made toward the end of the Olshey era. But without a follow-up move with even more enthusiasm, it might also have paved a path that will eventually lead the Blazers to similar results.