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November 01, 2016

Three thoughts on the Jerami Grant trade

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The Sixers shipped Jerami Grant to Oklahoma City in a minor deal where both sides can arguably feel pretty good about the return. Oklahoma City gets the younger player with higher upside in addition to some added cap flexibility, while the Sixers take on a player who fits their roster better along with a future asset (and we really mean “future,” like kids in middle school at the moment) in the late first-round pick or two second rounders.

Not great, not terrible, but most importantly, probably not a huge deal either way. Here are a few thoughts on the trade after talking to Bryan Colangelo, Brett Brown, and some of the Sixers players:

1. The Sixers made this move with offense in mind: They finished dead last on that end of the floor by a mile the past two seasons. And with Oklahoma City interested in acquiring Grant for a while now, the timing probably had more to do with the Sixers’ own self-evaluation.

Early on, they again find themselves dead last in offensive rating after a preseason in which they finished next-to-last in offensive rating. The Sixers figure to be a lottery team again this season, but they want a tad more competency on offense.

“We’ve had a chance to assess where we are,” Colangelo said. “We’ve seen a number of preseason games, now we’ve seen a couple of live regular season games, [you] somewhat realize where you are.”

Ilyasova isn’t a great player by any means and he holds little future value, but he’s a living, breathing NBA stretch-four with the ability to make shots around post players like Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor. Simply put, they wanted more space for those guys. Both Brown and Colangelo mentioned Ilyasova’s shooting ability as a major factor.

“He can shoot… and I’m purposely pausing,” Brown said for added effect. “He can shoot. He has an identifiable NBA offensive skill in that he can stretch the floor. And he’s played that position kind of his whole life where he’s had a big five man and he’s a stretch-four.”

Grant still has some potential for growth and is a superior defender, but the Sixers saw all of those times that an open shot turned into a contested drive and decided to look elsewhere. From here, that is understandable.

2. Grant didn’t have much of a role moving forward: Allow me to disagree with Brown, who believes that Grant’s best spot in the NBA moving forward is as a 3. His best attribute is defensive versatility and shot-blocking (the latter of which he’s excellent at, mind you), which both shine through better at small-ball four.

Unfortunately, the Sixers already have Ben Simmons and Dario Saric. They also have Embiid, Okafor, Nerlens Noel and Richaun Holmes at the other frontcourt spot, admittedly a fluid situation.

“You go to the summer and look at the depth chart after Dario agreed to come, it’s like where does Jerami find his role?” Brown said. “Where does he find his minutes? It was clear to me then that he’s got to be a 3-man. He’s got to jump into the wing spot and fight with Nik, Hollis, and so on to get on the court.”

Long term, I have my doubts that would’ve worked out. Not with this roster, at least.

3. The Sixers are losing a valued member of the locker room: T.J. McConnell said that Grant was the one that called him and delivered the news.

“It got silent because I consider him one of the guys I’m closest to on this team,” McConnell said. “It was just hard to hear, but you know, I’m happy for him and excited for his new journey.”

Grant was one of the most popular players on the team, and considering that a lot of these guys are young and trying to carve out a niche in the NBA, that means a lot.

“He, and I, and the team, the organization went through some rough periods and still stayed together, still stayed strong, were able to sort of grow mutual respect among some difficult situations,” Brown said. “From that perspective, personally, I’m going to miss him.”

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann