A Win-Win Trade for the Pelicans & Grizzlies?

Updated: July 26, 2021

We’ve received our first real trade of the 2021 offseason. Two teams who seem to be going in opposite directions have made an exchange based on their current timelines. 7-foot Bruiser, Jonas Valanciunas has been sent to New Orleans for Eric Bledsoe and the semi-washed Steven Adams. For receiving the best-player in the deal, the Pelicans swapped their 10th and 40th pick in the upcoming draft for Memphis’ 17th and 51st picks. In addition, the Grizzlies acquired a top 10 protected Lakers 2022 pick which is projected to be well out of the lottery. Let’s look at the why’s.

New Orleans

 The Pelicans and their surplus of picks from the AD and Holiday deals have been anxiously awaiting the offseason. They have hoped to transform some of this potential energy into kinetic energy, and surround their crown jewel Zion Williamson with veteran talent. Especially after the rumors that Zion’s camp may want him out of New Orleans and even may make the unprecedented decisions of not signing his rookie extension, the Pelicans are desperate to make the playoffs this upcoming season.

Sending two players out for one in return has created a substantial amount of salary cap space to either retain Lonzo Ball or sign a bigger name like Kyle Lowry or DeMar DeRozan. It also sends a message to Zion and his camp that they are being proactive to create a winning roster after the dumpster fire of a season they had under head coach Stan Van Gundy. Most importantly though, they got the best player in the deal. No one around the league fully understood why they traded for Steven Adams who has been but a shell of himself in the post-Westbrook years in OKC and his contract extension was an even more confusing economic decision. In the backcourt, Bledsoe has continued to be an abysmal shooter from beyond the arc, which has mucked up the spacing in the paint for Zion to operate in. Both of those negative contracts were exchanged for the favorable 14 million dollar salary of Jonas Valanciunas.

Although not the greatest fit next to Zion, as neither of them shoots north of 36% from 3, he should prove to be the player that New Orleans had hoped Adams to be, a monster inside, and an enforcer to protect Williamson. His contract also at 14 million is a favorable one, and if they chose to match the Lonzo offer sheet and retain him, the two salaries could be combined in a package stacked with their surplus of draft capital for the next disgruntled star.


A lateral move at best for their current on-court production, it appears Memphis has looked at the playing field in the West and expects to be an 8th seed or below. If they can find a serious player for the future at 10, the trade may prove to swing heavily in their favor. At first glance, the acquisitions of Adams and Bledsoe in combination of the loss of their starting center looks like an utter disaster for the upcoming season. However, many have felt that playing their future All-Star stretch big Jaren Jackson Jr. at the 4 has produced diminishing returns. Killing two birds with one stone, Memphis has acquired value for Jonas in the final year of his contract while removing him from the starting lineup allowing JJJ to play the 5 and run the electric small-ball lineup opening up the runway in the paint for Ja Morant. It also allows Adams to play the role that he is better suited for as a backup big off the bench.

Although in the trade outlined above it looks like Memphis took on a tremendous amount of salary, Bledsoe’s contract next year is only partially guaranteed (3.9 million). The trade gets even sweeter for the Grizzlies with the incoming Bleacher Report that Eric Bledsoe will never suit up for Memphis and will most likely be moved elsewhere. Even if both players were to stay, they both would be off the books in time for Ja and JJJ’s max-rookie-extensions. With the move up from 17 to 10 and an additional 1st in 2022, it is substantial value considering removing Jonas from the lineup may be beneficial for the future development of both their young stars.


Of course, if Memphis botches the 10th pick in the draft this trade will go in the books as a bust, but all things considered, the move appears to be mutually beneficial for both franchises. The Pelicans get a proven center to pair with Zion in the frontcourt going into next season while the Grizzlies continue to build their young core. If I was forced to pick a winner though, it would be Memphis due to the title or bust mentality. Their front office has accepted their current limitations and is building a future contender while one could argue that New Orleans’ move is one made out of fear. Even if they are lucky enough to sign Lowry in the offseason, it’s a long shot they would be 5th seed in this loaded Western Conference. Ideally the 10th pick in the draft this year should have been packaged to move up in the draft for a future star or used for a current superstar like Bradly Beal. However, with them getting off too terrible contracts and acquiring a good center without having to give up too much still has to be seen as a win. Their priorities are simply different, and their need to make the playoffs now may affect their chances to be a contender in the upcoming seasons. We will see what other moves the Pelicans choose to make in their win-now pursuit.


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