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Report: Pelicans trading Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, better picks to Grizzlies for Jonas Valanciunas, lesser picks

Pelicans center Steven Adams and Grizzlies

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - FEBRUARY 06: Steven Adams #12 of the New Orleans Pelicans is fouled by Jonas Valanciunas #17 of the Memphis Grizzlies during the second quarter of an NBA game at Smoothie King Center on February 06, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

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The Pelicans want to win quickly around Zion Williamson.

Now, they’ll have the cap room to upgrade their roster (maybe by signing Kyle Lowry?).

New Orleans is trading Eric Bledsoe ($18,125,000 salary next season) and Steven Adams ($17,073,171) to the Grizzlies for Jonas Valanciunas ($14 million), Memphis upgrading draft picks as a result.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report:

The Pelicans now project to have about $36 million in cap space.

That does not include cap holds for potential restricted free agents Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart. If retaining matching rights on Hart, that’d drop to about $25 million in room. (Ball’s cap hold – $27,509,455 – will likely be higher than his salary. So, keeping him would effectively eat into the cap space.)

New Orleans also gains financial flexibility the following season. Adams is due $17,926,829 (from a misguided trade-and-extension last offseason), and Bledsoe has $3.9 million of his $19,375,000 salary guaranteed. By contrast, Valanciunas is on an expiring contract.

Plus, the Pelicans get Valanciunas, the best player in the deal.

But the draft-pick cost is substantial. The Grizzlies move up in the first round and second round and get a future Lakers pick. Though the pick is top-10 protected and Los Angeles will likely be good next season, this year showed the low end of the Lakers’ range.

This is excellent value for Memphis, which – barring other moves – will decline Justise Winslow’s $13 million team option to facilitate this deal. Winslow wasn’t worth that money. Already a deep team, the Grizzlies would have struggled to lure a free agent who’d make a huge difference. Those draft-pick considerations are nice.

Downgrading from Valanciunas to Adams allows Memphis to elevate Jaren Jackson Jr. into a larger role, and Adams can still play. Maybe Bledsoe will fare better in a fresh environment, too.