It feels like just yesterday the Chicago Bulls were at the center of Jerami Grant trade rumors.
In advance of the 2022 trade deadline, the Bulls and Pistons had some level of discussions about the then-27-year-old forward's availability. But those talks never bore fruit.
On Wednesday, the Grant saga reached a long-awaited conclusion. Detroit shipped him to Portland in exchange for first and second-round picks in 2025 (that first-rounder is via the Milwaukee Bucks), a second-round pick swap in 2022 (moving the Pistons from pick 46 to 36 in Thursday night's draft), and, by proxy, a boatload of cap space.
The Bulls' bid for Grant was long dead — and, besides, they did not have the ability to absorb his salary into a sizable trade exception like the Trail Blazers did.
Still, there remains a Chicago connection in this deal.
That connection comes in the form of the future first-round pick the Trail Blazers owe the Bulls as part of the three-team Lauri Markkanen sign-and-trade completed in August 2021. The pick was originally reported as a 2022 first-round selection, but also as lottery-protected through 2028, meaning that if the Trail Blazers missed the playoffs — and, thus, fell into the lottery — they would retain the selection and transfer their debt to the following season (if not conveyed by 2028, the pick becomes a second-rounder).
Portland did just that in 2021-22, losing Damian Lillard to injury after 29 games, finishing the regular season 27-55 and landing the seventh pick in the draft lottery. The next chance the Bulls have of getting their first-round pick will thus come in 2023, but that relies on Portland making the playoffs.
While the 2022 offseason is just getting started, trading for Grant is an early sign that Portland is serious about improving immediately. Cracking the top eight of the West (post Play-In Tournament) won't be easy, especially with Kawhi Leonard (Clippers) and Zion Williamson (Pelicans) on the comeback trail and the Lakers looming as a potential threat. But what's certain is the Portland pick is more likely to convey to the Bulls in 2023 now than it was before the Grant trade.
It's worth Bulls fans rooting for the Trail Blazers through this lens, given that the pick having a better chance of conveying could either increase its potential trade value or give the Bulls a bite at the draft apple in a year they are almost sure to send their first-round pick to the Orlando Magic as part of the Nikola Vučević trade.
While we're a long way from learning the precise fate of the pick, it certainly adds a layer of Bulls intrigue to the first major trade of the offseason. Stay tuned.