The Grizzlies and Pelicans executed the first major trade of the week in the NBA Draft.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Monday that Memphis send Jonas Valanciunas and the No. 17 and 51 picks in this year’s draft to New Orleans in exchange for Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, the No. 10 and 40 picks in this year’s draft and a first-round pick 2022 (top -10 protected). There are a lot of moving parts here, but perhaps the most interesting aspect of this trade is its impact on a player who is not even in the deal.
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By abandoning the Adams and Bledsoe contracts, the Pelicans could create up to $ 36 million in ceiling space, by ESPN’s Bobby Marks. That would mean not keeping restricted free agents Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart, although it’s currently unclear how they plan to approach negotiations with each player. (If Hart stays but Ball leaves, that number drops to $ 25 million.)
So why would the Pelicans consider the possibility of losing a talented piece or two from their backcourt rotation? Because they could land Kyle Lowry. The Raptors star will enter unrestricted free agency this summer, and there is a “growing buzz” that New Orleans should be among the teams chasing him, according to Marc Stein.
It’s not hard to see why the Pelicans would want to sign Lowry. He fills a need as a veteran playmaker, and he’s still capable of being very productive and providing great leadership for a team that hasn’t made it to the playoffs since 2018. Lowry would also be a great choice at next to Zion Williamson, who has just completed his first All-Star season and is expected to become just the cornerstone of the franchise.
But New Orleans couldn’t have entered the race without ceiling space. Barry Jackson and Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald reported Monday that Lowry wanted a “guaranteed three-year deal, averaging $ 30 million per season.” Even if Lowry doesn’t hit that $ 30 million expectation, it probably won’t be by much. Now the Pelicans can make a realistic offer.
There will of course be other contenders. The Heat, Knicks, Lakers, Mavericks and Sixers could all get involved. But this trade certainly turns the Pelicans into a more serious threat to win Lowry’s draw.