One of the first Woj bombs of the offseason has dropped, and even more surprisingly, it happened without speculation and rumors from outside sources.
If you have any doubt as to who won this trade, it’s easily the Pelicans, and it’s not even close. The first reason why is that Jonas Valančiūnas is a much better center than Steven Adams. Although both players are roughly the same age, Adams thrived while receiving passes and setting screens for Russell Westbrook. Once he was traded to the Pelicans, Adams never found his role, only averaging 7.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 0.7 blocks per game. Valančiūnas, on the other hand, has been steadily increasing ever since he entered the league. After being traded at the 2019 NBA Trade Deadline for Marc Gasol, Valančiūnas nearly averaged 20 points per game in the remaining 19 games of the season. Most recently, in the 2020-2021 NBA season, Valančiūnas averaged 17.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks per game. Adams is 28 and Valančiūnas is 29, but both are in their athletic primes. Nonetheless, it’s clear who the better center is.
The Pelicans also got rid of Eric Bledsoe, which may seem like a bad thing at first glance. After all, in his prime, he was a 20-points per game scorer. However, Bledsoe is far past his prime. He is no longer the energetic point guard we knew. While he is still a solid veteran contributer, his numbers and efficiency have gone down ever since he started playing for New Orleans. Also, why would the Grizzlies want Bledsoe? They already have Rookie of the Year and future All-Star Ja Morant, as well as Tyus Jones and Justice Winslow as backups. They may end up trading Bledsoe later this offseason, similar to the Andre Iguodala situation with the Grizzlies and Miami Heat.
The Grizzlies, who are very much in rebuild mode, get to advance up the draft from this trade, and will get a (chances are) late 1st round pick in 2022 from the Lakers. The Pelicans, who are trying to appease their young core and make sure Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram don’t walk, will get an upgrade at the center position, and even more important… gain cap space.
Adams has a contract that owes him $17.1 million next season, and Bledsoe’s contract owes him $18.1 million. Meanwhile, Valančiūnas has a salary of $15 million, and will be a free agent in 2022. This means that the Pelicans have just acquired a lot of cap space, and can give someone a big deal in free agency. Rumors suggest restricted free agent Lonzo Ball could be headed elsewhere, in which case the Pelicans need a starting point guard. Other rumors have said that the franchise will try to get Kyle Lowry to come play for them. Whichever it is, New Orleans certainly won this trade, and is in a very good place for the immediate future.
What point guard do you think the Pelicans will acquire or keep in free agency? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!