According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Memphis Grizzlies are finalizing a trade to send Jonas Valanciunas to the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Pelicans will reportedly get picks Nos. 17 and 51 in the 2021 NBA Draft in addition to Valanciunas. In return, the Grizzlies will receive Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, picks Nos. 10 and 40 in the 2021 NBA Draft and a top-10 protected 2022 first-round pick via the Los Angeles Lakers, per Wojnarowski.
BREAKING: Memphis is finalizing a trade to send Jonas Valanciunas and 2021 Nos. 17 and 51 picks to New Orleans for Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, 2021 picks Nos. 10 and 40 and a protected 2022 first-round pick via the Lakers, sources tell ESPN.- Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 26, 2021
The No. 5 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Valanciunas started his NBA career with the Toronto Raptors and was traded to the Grizzlies in 2019. He's coming off of one of the best seasons of his career, averaging 17.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game on 59.2 percent shooting from the field.
Valanciunas has one more year remaining on his contract, setting him up to be an unrestricted free agent following the 2021-22 season.
The Pelicans acquired both Adams and Bledsoe last offseason. Adams averaged 7.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game with the Pelicans in 2020-21 while Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points and 3.8 assists per game.
Adams is set to be an unrestricted free agent following the 2022-23 season. Bledsoe has a partial guarantee in his contract for the 2022-23 season.
NBA.com Staff reactions
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): While this trade is intriguing from a player standpoint - Adams and Bledsoe are strong culture fits in Memphis and I love the idea of Valanciunas stretching the floor a bit more for Zion Williamson and the Pelicans - I'm going to take this from an NBA Draft point of view.
Which prospect do the Grizzlies love at No. 10 that they don't believe will make it to No. 17?
ESPN's Jonathan Givony immediately linked them to Australian jumbo guard Josh Giddey, which is an interesting pairing alongside ball-dominant guard Ja Morant. This isn't to say that Morant couldn't play off-ball to Giddey or vice versa, it's just that I think there are better options out there. Depending on what the franchise's plan is with Adams, who still has two years remaining on his contract, could they target big man prospects like Texas' Kai Jones or Turkish star Alperen Sengun?
I also like the idea of them trying to bolster their wing depth and going after someone like Arkansas' Moses Moody (if he falls that far), Gonzaga's Corey Kispert or even Oregon upperclassman Chris Duarte. For me, even with some relevant established names in the deal, my focus shifts to Memphis' desire for a certain prospect at pick No. 10.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): As many were quick to point out, this trade creates more cap space for the Pelicans to work with in free agency this offseason, which they could use to retain Lonzo Ball or go after someone like Kyle Lowry, who they are reportedly interested in. This move will cost the Grizzlies cap space, but, as Kyle pointed out, it's probably worth it to them if it means they get the player they want in the draft.
Plus, the contracts of Bledsoe and Adams could become useful at some point to match salaries in a trade. (It helps that the Grizzlies are quietly collecting draft picks).
On court, I also love the potential of Valanciunas and Williamson. Valanciunas isn't exactly a floor-spacing big, but he's much more capable of stepping out to the midrange and 3-point line than Adams. He should give Williamson a little more space to work with on offence, and the two of them together are going to beat up on teams around the basket. Get this: Williamson averaged 20.3 points per game in the paint this season, the most in the league. Valanciunas averaged 12.7 points per game in the paint, ranking him sixth.
The Pelicans are not going to be fun to play against next season.
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