The Memphis Grizzlies are finalizing a trade that will send big man Jonas Valanciunas and the Nos. 17 and 51 picks in the 2021 NBA Draft to the New Orleans Pelicans for guard Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams along with the 10th and 40th picks in this year's draft, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Memphis will also receive a protected 2022 first-round pick via the Los Angeles Lakers.
The trade gives the Grizzlies a veteran guard in Bledsoe to join a relatively young team that made a splash this season when it beat the Golden State Warriors in the play-in tournament to secure the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. However, Chris Haynes of Yahoo reports that the newly acquired Bledsoe isn't expected to stay in Memphis. For the Pelicans, they move off both Bledsoe and Adams, the latter of which should help create more space for Zion Williamson to operate on the floor without Adams clogging the paint.
There's a lot of moving pieces to this trade, so let's break it all down and grade each side of the transaction.
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- No. 10 pick in 2021 NBA Draft
- No. 40 pick in 2021 NBA Draft
- Protected 2022 first-round pick (via Lakers)
- No. 17 pick in 2021 NBA Draft
- No. 51 pick in 2021 NBA Draft
Memphis trade grade: B+
The bigger portion of this trade lies within the draft picks the Grizzlies are getting in return. Moving up to No. 10 in a draft class that could have some exciting talent in the latter portion of the lottery to pair with Ja Morant is a positive move by Memphis. The Grizzlies also moved up 11 spots in the second round, which could be used for another trade or to grab another young player if the value's there.
The players Memphis got back may not stay with the team, as Haynes reported that Bledsoe is not expected to remain with the team. Same with Adams, who is owed a significant amount of money over the next two years and whose athleticism has deteriorated over the past few years. Losing Valanciunas, who was integral to the team's success this season, is a bit of a blow. Especially after he posted career-high numbers (17.1 points, 12.5 rebounds) while shooting the best of his career (59.2 field goal percent). In the postseason, he put up 15 points and almost 10 boards a game on top of 2.6 assists in Memphis' first-round loss to the Utah Jazz. But Memphis may not be done just yet, so losing Valanciunas may not be that big of a deal further down the line.
Another interesting wrinkle is the 2022 top-10 protected pick the Grizzlies got from New Orleans via the Lakers, which may not be very high considering L.A. will once again be championship contenders next season, but it's another asset that can be used in a future trade or used if there's a player Memphis wants to add from the 2022 draft.
This move seems to be made with the draft in mind, rather than the actual players the Grizzlies are getting back, so it's a pretty fair deal for Memphis.
New Orleans trade grade: A
The Pelicans did several things with this trade. They got off Adams and Bledsoe's hefty contracts -- $34.9 million and $37.4 million respectively. They brought in a big who fits better alongside Zion Williamson in Valanciunas and by doing the first thing they cleared up cap space for this summer to make some moves at a couple different players, specifically Lonzo Ball. They also added a future first-rounder.
Ball is set to become a restricted free agent this summer, and he's expected to command a lot of attention from several teams looking to add his two-way capabilities in their backcourt. However, the Pelicans also want to retain his services, but prior to this trade that was looking like it would be incredibly difficult to pull off. However, by trading Bledsoe and Adams, New Orleans created up to $36 million in cap space, and if it makes any additional moves that could increase to give it a better chance to match an offer sheet Ball gets from another team.
If Ball proves to be too costly, New Orleans could target Raptors veteran guard Kyle Lowry, who the team has been linked to in recent weeks as having interest in the NBA champion. Whether it's Ball, Lowry or another guard, the Pelicans have put themselves in a position to add a solid player in free agency.
This move also swaps out Adams -- a big who never fit well alongside franchise centerpiece Zion Williamson -- for Valanciunas who is comfortable knocking down 3s and playing further away from the basket. It will give Williamson more space to work with on the offensive end of the floor, while also not sacrificing in the rebounding department, as Valanciunas ranked second in the league in offensive boards (4.1).
New Orleans also moved back in the draft by getting the Nos. 17 and 51 picks from Memphis, keeping it at five draft picks in the upcoming NBA Draft on Thursday. The Pelicans made a move to improve right now, something this team has focused on since moving on from Stan Van Gundy after just one season in search of a head coach who could better connect better with the players and turn this franchise into a winning team in the immediate future. New Orleans brought in Suns assistant Willie Green to do just that, and by creating cap space the Pelicans could be in a good position to compete for the playoffs next season.