Ahead of the NBA Draft, the Memphis Grizzlies have finalized a deal to send big man Jonas Valanciunas to the Pelicans for Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams. The news was first reported by ESPN.
Memphis also sends this year’s No. 17 and No. 51 draft picks in exchange for selections at No. 10 and No. 40.
The deal — for New Orleans — is strictly based on clearing up cap space. With the departure of Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams, the Pelicans can now either match an offer sheet for restricted free agent Lonzo Ball or pursue a veteran point guard such as Kyle Lowry.
Bledsoe is due $18.1 million next season, but only $3.9 million of his $19.4 million salary for 2022-23 is guaranteed, while Adams is owed more than $17 million in each of the next two seasons.
For New Orleans, Valanciunas is extension eligible and can replace his $15M annual contract with $18M annually for 4-years. Valanciunas can provide more offensive help than Adams. He is also an amazing floor spacer — which will complement Zion’s explosiveness in the paint — given his three-point ability. Valanciunas never backs down on the offensive and defensive glass and will generally accommodate 10+ rebounds every game.
While Memphis is likely to move Bledsoe before the season, Steven Adams can provide veteran help alongside Jaren Jackson Jr. Adams, with his high physicality, is exceptional in the post and doesn’t let his size slow him down.
Bledsoe was dealt to New Orleans in November as part of the four-team trade marked by Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee. Since then, he has averaged a disappointing 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. Bledsoe can still be effective off the bench from his explosive athleticism. His fall from near All-Star talent may just have been the coaching atmosphere he’s been in recent years.
The Grizzlies additionally acquire the No. 10 pick of the draft on Thursday. Reports claim that Memphis plans to target forward Josh Giddey. In his lone appearance with the Australian Boomers, Giddey put up an impressive 14 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. Giddey has a high IQ for a 19-year-old. He searches for his teammates first — and at 6’8” he is listed as a point-forward. With his elite court vision, Giddey makes the surrounding players stronger as he performs at his own pace. Giddey isn’t quick enough to blow by defenders, but he finds his way around in the pick-and-roll. It’s no surprise that Giddey will have plenty more trouble getting past defenders and creating separation in the NBA’s level of athleticism.
The central weakness in Giddey’s game is his inconsistent shooting. He shot 29.3% from deep last season in the NBL. His pull-up game and shooting release are both insufficient. Until he corrects his shot, floor spacing will be problematic.
On the defensive end, Giddey understands how to take advantage of his length, but he continues to have trouble when guarding speedy point guards.