Though it won’t be official until August 6, the New Orleans Pelicans are putting the final touches on a trade that would send guard Eric Bledsoe and center Steven Adams, along with the 10th pick in this year’s draft and a first-rounder next year to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for center Jonas Valanciunas and the 17th pick, according to reports from ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski.
The 2022 first round pick that the Pelicans are including in the deal was acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers in the Anthony Davis deal, and is protected from slots 1-10.
Both teams also exchanged second round picks, with the Pelicans sending the 40th selection to Memphis for pick No. 51.
Valanciunas, 29, spent the last two-plus seasons with the Grizzlies after six seasons with the Toronto Raptors.
Since 2019, he’s appeared in 132 games with 131 starts, averaging 15.9 points and 11.8 rebounds. During the 2020-21 season, he was one of 15 players to average a double-double with 17.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game.
He finished third in the NBA in rebounding and was second in the league on the offensive glass (4.1). Valanciunas’ 49 double-doubles ranked third behind MVP Nikola Jokic and Russell Westbrook.
For the Pelicans, the trade gives the team financial flexibility as they enter the NBA’s free agency period on Aug. 2., and a player who can contribute immediately on an expiring contract ($14M in 2021-22).
New Orleans now can either match any offer sheet for Lonzo Ball, who is a restricted free agent, or pursue another point guard, like Spencer Dinwiddie, Kyle Lowry, or Mike Conley Jr.
They could have as much as $36 million in salary cap space if Ball and fellow restricted free agent Josh Hart both exit the Crescent City. New Orleans is apparently already working to resign Hart. Ball’s future, remains up in the air.
Adams and Bledsoe were acquired as part of the three-team deal that sent Jrue Holiday to the Milwaukee Bucks prior to last season.
Both players had disappointing seasons, posting numbers that did not come close to matching their career averages.