New Orleans Pelicans

Report: Pelicans commit to Jonas Valanciunas with two-year, $30.1 million extension

Prior to their season opener, the New Orleans Pelicans have committed to center Jonas Valanciunas for the near future after reaching an agreement on a two-year, $30.1 million extension, according to ESPN's Andrew Lopez.

The Pelicans acquired Valanciunas via a three-team trade with the Memphis Grizzlies and Charlotte Hornets this past offseason. In sending out Steven Adams to the Grizzlies as part of the deal, New Orleans has paved the way for Valanciunas to become its starting center.

The Lithuanian big man is coming off of a monster season with Memphis, establishing himself as one of the best rebounders in the NBA. He averaged career-highs of 17.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game while shooting 59.2 percent from the field. His rebounding average was third-best in the NBA, trailing only Clint Capela and Rudy Gobert, while his 49 double-doubles on the season were tied for third-most alongside Gobert.

Valanciunas has been a bit of a journeyman over his last few seasons since being traded by the Toronto Raptors at the 2019 trade deadline for Marc Gasol - a key piece to their NBA championship team. He spent his first seven seasons in the league with Toronto after it selected him with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.

Valanciunas had two-and-a-half strong seasons in Memphis where he averaged 16.4 points and 11.7 rebounds per game, playing a vital role in leading the Grizzlies to the Play-In Tournament in 2020 and 2021, advancing to the playoffs last year.

He will now look to expedite a push to the playoffs in New Orleans alongside superstar forward Zion Williamson and one-time All-Star Brandon Ingram.

With Williamson sidelined to begin the season with a foot injury, interior responsibilities will fall on Valanciunas immediately. He'll have a huge opportunity to show he's worth his contract extension by setting the tone for the Pelicans while their young star recovers.

Valanciunas will be put to the test right away when the Pelicans open the season on Wednesday, Oct. 20 against MVP candidate Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers.

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