The 2021 NBA Draft is nearly here and with it comes the first major trade between two teams trying to shake things up headed into next season. According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies agreed to swap first-round picks this year and move three notable veterans just three days before the start of the draft.
In the nearly finalized deal, the Pelicans would receive veteran big man Jonas Valanciunas and the Grizzlies No. 17 and No. 51 picks this year. Memphis would take on Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, the No. 10 and No. 40 selections from New Orleans this year and a top-10 protected 2022 first-round pick via the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Pelicans will quickly upgrade their fit at center with the move, swapping out Adams for a floor-spacing five in Valanciunas. New Orleans also clears significant cap space by dumping the salaries of Adams and Bledsoe and taking on just $14 million for next year with their new big man. That additional room will give the Pelicans an opportunity to resign Lonzo Ball or pursue a free agent point guard, like Kyle Lowry, this offseason.
On the other hand, the Grizzlies will make a major leap up draft boards by acquiring the tenth overall pick. Memphis very likely has a rookie in mind and should be able to land an instant contributor with this year’s deep class. The franchise will also add two veterans to an otherwise young group of rising stars. Memphis was frisky last year but may need to rely on some older leadership to sneak into the hotly contested Western Conference playoffs.
The NBA media world took to Twitter to weigh in on major draft-week trade on Monday. While many gave the upper hand to Pelicans, other acknowledged that the Grizzlies will be able to pick up an instant piece with the No. 10 pick in this year’s draft.
New Orleans creates salary cap space for August that allows them to either match an offer sheet on Lonzo Ball, or have the cap space to pursue a significant free agent point guard, including Kyle Lowry and others. Pels liked Valanciunas as floor spacer at center over Adams, too. https://t.co/3YRyBTEg1S
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 26, 2021
This trade has been swirling for a few days in different iterations as we reported yesterday. Many around the NBA believe Memphis will look to target Josh Giddey at No. 10, if he's available. That's one of the reasons we put him in that slot yesterday: https://t.co/VEdy8p5uV6 https://t.co/iVuJhUwwEb
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) July 26, 2021
I like this for both. Jonas V is really good, tough, and shoots 3s. Much better fit for the Pelicans next to Zion. But man, I can’t wait to see what the Grizzlies do at #10. Memphis has hit on every draft pick in recent years. Tons of talent available mid-lotto that fits with Ja. https://t.co/gHoXkyo8CI
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) July 26, 2021
One takeaway from Grizzlies/Pelicans trade beyond the significant $ aspect that could potentially allow them to match a Lonzo Ball offer sheet:
Eric Bledsoe getting dealt is another example of when you hear a contract can’t get moved . . . it can.
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) July 26, 2021
JV one of my all-time favs. Let this all play out and see who is on roster. My bet is a move for other moves. Got some big contracts to pair with now. Chess not checkers. https://t.co/3V3BU1zwG0
— Chris Vernon (@ChrisVernonShow) July 26, 2021
The big winner of the Grizzlies-Pelicans trade, of course, is anyone who values matching a player's physical appearance with the franchise they play for. pic.twitter.com/PeP3iSacUr
— Trevor Lane (@Trevor_Lane) July 26, 2021
I like this trade for both teams, though I feel for Grizzlies fans. It's always brutal when a team has a really fun season and then trades away one of the best and most important parts of it. https://t.co/cnLPPhIhq1
— Brady Klopfer (@BradyKlopferNBA) July 26, 2021
We got action! (and my knee-jerk reaction is that I like this trade more for the Grizzlies than the Pelicans) https://t.co/aUNouZcjbc
— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) July 26, 2021
Both the Grizzlies and the Pelicans find themselves with young rosters ready to take the next leap in the Western Conference as soon as next year. Memphis snuck into the playoffs in 2021, while New Orleans was just on the outside of the play-in tournament looking in. Monday’s deal between the two teams frees each franchise up to make a few additional moves that could turn either club a contender in the next few seasons.
The trade between the Grizzlies and the Pelicans is just the start of what’s shaping up to be an active week around the NBA.