If the NBA were a singles’ bar and the March 25 trade deadline represented last call, right now the Boston Celtics would be buying the Detroit Pistons round after round of drinks. (Save for the fact that Danny Ainge doesn’t drink.)
The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported Thursday morning that the Celtics plan to go after Detroit forward Jerami Grant, who is having a career season and is Vegas’ odds-on favorite to win the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
After being mostly used as a role player his first six seasons — split amongst Philadelphia, Oklahoma City and Denver — the 26-year-old Grant has taken on much greater responsibility in Motown. He leads the team in scoring with 23.4 points per game, and is second in rebounds with 5.3. His 17.8 shot attempts are 10 more than his career average, and he leads the team in minutes played by a wide margin.
Of course, Grant’s increased role is exactly what Detroit had hoped for when they signed the 6-foot-8 forward to a 3-year, $60-million contract this offseason — a deal that looks more and more like a steal as Grant’s numbers explode.
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Assuming the Pistons are willing to move Grant, he would make a nice addition for the Celtics, adding length and athleticism on the defensive end, and giving Boston another threat inside and from three. Grant is shooting 36.3% from long distance on 6.8 attempts a game.
First Rounders Likely Needed
Obviously, given Grant’s emergence this season and the newness of his contract, a move to the Celtics will not come cheap. Boston would probably need to send Detroit a couple of first-round picks and perhaps one or two of their young players.
That said, the Pistons are clearly in a rebuilding phase (as evidenced by the mutually-agreed benching of Blake Griffin) and the Celtics, who made it to the Eastern Conference finals inside the bubble last season, still have aspirations of competing for a title this year, despite a disappointing first half. A deal that immediately improves Boston and gives Detroit future resources could suit both franchises nicely.
As The Athletic’s Jay King points out, Boston could acquire Grant without shedding any current salary by employing the massive traded player exception the Celtics reaped from Gordon Hayward’s sign-and-trade last season. But that would put them over the $132. 6 million luxury-tax threshold this season, something Boston owner Wyc Grousbeck recently indicated he was reluctant to do given the increased tax penalties down the road when Jayson Tatum’s extension goes into effect.
But Grousbeck also said that the money does not control the team’s decisions — winning does — so if adding Grant now means a material increase in the chances of a championship run, Groubeck, in theory, could be persuaded to set aside the financial considerations.
Runs in the Family
If pedigree has anything to do with success in the NBA, Grant’s huge improvement and bright future should come as no surprise.
The Syracuse product is the son of Harvey Grant, who played 11 seasons in the league, and he’s the nephew of Horace Grant, who won several titles in the ‘90s with the Michael Jordan-led Bulls and started 1037 of 1165 career games.
Additionally, Grant is the brother of Jerian Grant, a first-round pick in 2015 who spent time with the Knicks, Bulls, Magic and Wizards. Jerian is currently playing for Promitheas Patras of the Greek Basket League alongside a third brother, Jerai.