SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 03: Jerami Grant #9 of the Portland Trail Blazers passes the ball during the second quarter of the preseason game against the LA Clippers at Climate Pledge Arena on October 03, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

Grant Shows Right Away Why He Was Brought To Portland

It didn’t take long into his first game as a Trail Blazer for Jerami Grant to show why the team was so motivated to acquire the 6-9 forward during the 2022 offseason.

Clippers guard Norman Powell managed to get by Keon Johnson for what looked like an easy layup with Portland trailing 22-14 with a little more than three minutes to play in the first quarter. But almost as soon as Powell released the ball, Grant, streaking through the middle of the lane, elevated and erased the attempt before it could make the short journey to the backboard.

That play alone would have been an apt representation of what the Trail Blazers hoped they were getting when they sent draft capital and cap space to Detroit to acquire Grant, but it got better from there.

Grant managed to corral the rebound after the block before the ball touched the court, took a few dribbles in transition and then found a streaking Nassir Little with a perfectly timed bounce pass that he went on to finish with a two-handed dunk.

“This is what you guys are going to be seeing from Jerami,” said Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups. “He’s just all over the place, he has those incredible blocks all the time, his size and athleticism is going to really, really stand out for us.”

Grant’s abilities would be noticeable enough on their own, but his talent is especially significant in relation to the rotating cast of forwards the Trail Blazers have seen come through Portland for the last five seasons. Gone are those nearing the ends of their careers or doing their best despite being undersized for the position. Now, the Trail Blazers, if Monday’s game is any indication, have a certified, unquestioned starting power forward.

“He brings something to the table that we just haven’t had,” said Damian Lillard, who developed an appreciation for Grant’s game when they played together at the Tokyo Olympics. “You see some of those blocks he had coming from the weakside, those are just high-level, athlete plays. It’s a gift to be able to do that. And then him pushing the ball, getting into the paint, playing above the rim, being able to make threes. Seeing him over the last couple months and coming out tonight, even what he did tonight was productive and it’s going to continue to get better. So I loved what I saw from him.”

Grant finished the game with 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field, 2-of-2 shooting from three and 4-of-4 shooting from the line, four rebounds, three blocks, an assist and a steal in 27 minutes, the exact kind of stat-stuffing general manager Joe Cronin and his staff envisioned when they set into motion the plan to acquire the Portland native and son of Harvey Grant, a former Trail Blazer.

Grant’s status as an elite defender is obviously the most needed skillset for a team whose defensive rating has been near the bottom of the league for longer than anyone would like, but his ability to stretch the floor and use his athleticism on both ends makes him much more than a defensive specialist.

“He covers up a lot of your mistakes defensively,” said Billups. “Offensively, gives you so much athleticism as well and he can play all over the floor. He can handle the ball as well. He just does a lot of good things.”

For his part, Grant called his first game as a Trail Blazer just “okay,” likely because he turned the ball over five times in a losing effort. But considering the options at forward over the last few seasons, even an average night out of Jerami Grant still qualifies as a considerable improvement.

“Definitely think I fit in well,” said Grant. “I’m definitely hard on myself but at the same time I know this is really early, so we’ll be better.”