Jerami Grant, the Detroit Pistons’ leading scorer, is out indefinitely after tearing ligaments in his right thumb, according to a report from The Athletic. If you’re wondering how the season can get worse for a team with the worst record in the NBA, one of the most anemic offenses in the league, and currently on an 11-game losing streak ... well, it just did.
Previous injuries have sidelined players around six weeks after surgery. There is no indication if surgery will be required or how long Grant will be sidelined at this point. If he does miss around six weeks, he will be back just prior to the NBA’s trade deadline on Feb. 10.
Grant leads the team in points (20.1 per game), free-throw attempts per game, field-goal attempts, and usage rate. The team already only barely eclipses an offensive rating of 100 at 100.4, which is 29th in the NBA, and he’s the only player on the team who can command large amounts of attention, make and take big shots, and do it at reasonable efficiency.
This also presents some large questions the Pistons will be forced to confront.
What will the starting lineup look like?
With the Pistons losing their starting power forward, you have to imagine the easiest path to filling that hole in the lineup would be to slide the struggling Saddiq Bey from small forward to power forward and add the shooting of Frank Jackson into the starting lineup in the back court alongside Cade Cunningham and Killian Hayes. If it’s not Jackson taking the spot, it would likely be Hamidou Diallo.
Kelly Olynyk could return from his MCL sprain in roughly 2-3 weeks, and having him back in the fold presents Dwane Casey with a few additional options. He could put Olynyk in at power forward and have Bey remain the small forward or he could be extremely radical and have Olynyk move into the starting center spot for offensive punch and either slide Isaiah Stewart to power forward or move him to the bench as the team’s new backup center. They’d be trading a lot of defense for offense, but it’s also hard to fathom how this team builds a functional offense while Grant is down and the roster is full of people who either don’t shoot much or shoot a lot and don’t drain them consistently.
Does this mean Grant will definitely not be traded?
The odds that the Pistons traded Grant were already pretty slim, and this makes those odds even smaller. Still, you were starting to see Grant’s name floated in trade speculation. His name has been associated alongside Ben Simmons’ for months, but there never seemed to be much fire there.
Recently, though, Chad Ford and ESPN’s Zach Lowe have indicated that they either expect Grant to be moved or wouldn’t be surprised if you hear his name in more trade discussions. It does make a certain amount of sense. Grant is a good player in his prime playing on a pretty bad team, and he could fit into the rotation of many competing franchises. Grant also hasn’t seemed to develop much chemistry with Cunningham, with the two essentially rotating creation responsibilities independent of each other instead of in connection with each other. It is early, however, and it’s too soon to right off how easily the two could fit together long term.
Will the Pistons ever win another game?
The short answer is yes, because of course. But they certainly won’t win many games with him out, and when he returns it’ll be unclear how quickly he returns to his 20-point-per-game form.
Even with Grant in the lineup, the Pistons were the worst team in the NBA and without him, it seems extremely unlikely they’d even be able to eclipse last season’s 20-win total.
Are there any bright spots?
It’s been a brutal season for Detroit, and if you’re looking for the faintest indication of a sliver of a silver lining, then this is all I have for you — the training wheels are now fully off. The young Pistons who are struggling so much will no longer be able to look for Grant somewhere on the perimeter as a guy who can bail them out with a jab-step 20-footer or a slithery drive into the lane.
Cade Cunningham will surely take on more of the scoring load, but even more than Cade, you’ll have to look to guys like Bey, who had had a truly horrific sophomore season to have more offensive responsibility, and the light-shooting Killian Hayes should have more shots available to him on a nightly basis.
If these players are ever going to learn how to be functional offensive players, not having Grant around to protect you is a perfect time for it to happen. It won’t be efficient, mind you, and the margins of these games will be lopsided, but maybe they’ll figure out what it takes and, more importantly, what they are capable of in the NBA.
Get well soon, Jerami. And, hey, maybe this means they start bringing up Jamorko Pickett from the Motor City Cruise. He could be fun to watch in garbage time.