Jerami Grant and Kelly Olynyk represent not only two of the most highly paid and talented members of the young Detroit Pistons. The two of them also represent more than 40% of the career NBA minutes played on the entire Pistons roster prior to this season.
Both have seen extended absences due to injuries — Olynyk hasn’t played since Nov. 10 with an MCL sprain and Jerami Grant has been out since Dec. 10 with a sprained thumb. That has left Cory Joseph (14,561 career minutes) and Trey Lyles (6,680 minutes) as the only two veterans on Detroit’s roster.
The losses have piled up, there have been a few particularly ugly blow outs along the way, but the young guys are starting to figure some things out. And now it looks like their two veterans might be ready to re-enter the lineup soon.
Olynyk traveled with the team and is expected to play on Detroit’s four-game road trip. he is officially listed as questionable against the Golden State Warriors for Tuesday’s game. Grant, meanwhile, did not travel with the team. Instead, he was assigned to the G League affiliate Motor City Cruise to get some workouts and on-court work done as he tries to get his conditioning back up to playing status.
Since Grant with down, Detroit has gone 6-11 with the league’s 22nd-rated defense and tied for the league-worst offense. Make no mistake, the team is still bad, but the highs have seemed to inch higher and the lows are much lower. Without veterans in the lineup (Lyles and Joseph also missed time along with much of the rest of the lineup in health and safety protocols), there has been no steadying influence to the right the ship. When things go wrong, they really go wrong.
Both will be welcome back to a lineup that has seen some of those struggling young players figure some things out. Saddiq Bey’s still struggling from deep this season, but he’s getting more comfortable deploying the other parts of his offensive game. Hamidou Diallo has been on a tear since getting consistent minutes, and he represents Detroit’s lone rim attacker. Rookie Cade Cunningham is looking more comfortable in his role leading the offense, and he’s starting to attack the basket more and rely on his jump shot less.
The addition of the two veterans could further open the struggling offense up and align people into roles that they can execute within the offense. Of course, both veterans also represent attractive trade chips. Grant is among the most sought-after (or most reported about, anyway) players who could be moved by the Feb. 10 trade deadline. Olynyk is not much buzzed about, but he has a reasonable contract and the kind of skills that most playoff teams are looking for out of big men.