The Pelicans are the clear winners of the Valanciunas trade

Jonas Valanciunas
Jonas Valanciunas is teaming up with Zion Williamson. Photo from Basketball Insider.

The Grizzlies and Pelicans swung a surprise trade on Monday. Jonas Valanciunas was the centerpiece as the organizations exchanged draft picks, and the Grizz picked up the bloated salaries of Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe.

Memphis also gained the 10th pick in the trade and a 2022 first via the Lakers. New Orleans moves down in the draft, but only by seven spots.

This trade was out the blue. Valanciunas was the Grizzlies’ best player at points last season. The Adams and Bledsoe contracts looked tricky to move.

New Orleans has used some of their draft asset depth to improve their 2021/22 roster. It makes a lot of sense for them, too, given how ugly the fit was with Bledsoe and Adams alongside Zion Williamson. Valanciunas brings a bit of stretch five ability. The cleared cap space (which could be north of $30 million) opens the door to re-sign Lonzo Ball or make a run at Kyle Lowry.

Memphis must love someone with the 10th pick. Chris Haynes reported that Bledsoe is unlikely to play for them. That makes good sense, seeing as he’d be a nasty fit next to Ja Morant. They will be hoping on a bounce back from Adams. The 10th overall selection, and the Lakers’ likely late-first next year, still looks like a low return for the roster downgrade.

JJJ at the five

Perhaps, though, the Grizzlies scouting team thinks there’s a gem at 10. This is a front office which was been drafting at a high level in recent years. If Jaren Jackson Jr can cut down the fouls and improve on the boards, this could open the door for him to play most of his minutes at the five.

There are ways this trade works for both teams. Yet, for a Grizzlies club which just returned to the postseason, this feels like a bit of a backwards step. This can only be fairly judged once next season’s rosters are complete, but first reaction suggests a clear win for the Pels.

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About Sam Cox 695 Articles
Sam is a widely published freelance writer, covering basketball, baseball and a range of other sports. He's still trying to decide if he prefers a rundown shot block or a smooth double play.

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