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Winners, lots of winners, from Pelicans, Grizzlies trade

NBA: Golden State Warriors at New Orleans Pelicans

May 3, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) flexes his muscle after making a basket against Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) during the second half at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The best trades should be win-win for both sides.

It rarely works out that way, which is why we break down the winners and losers from trades. However, the first big pre-Draft trade came down Monday between the Grizzlies and the Pelicans, and there are a lot of winners and not really many losers. You could try to argue Eric Bledsoe is a loser, but he didn’t fit well in New Orleans and we don’t know where he’s ultimately going to end up — it’s not Memphis — so it’s too early to make that call. Plus, he’s still going to get paid a lot of money to play NBA basketball next season. That’s not losing in my book.

Instead, let’s break down all the winners from the trade. As a reminder, the trade sends Jonas Valanciunas and this year’s Nos. 17 and 51 picks to New Orleans, while Memphis gets Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, the Nos. 10 and 40 picks in this draft, plus a top-10 and a protected 2022 first-round (the Lakers’ pick)

Winner: New Orleans Pelicans — if they land a star with that cap space

The Pelicans want to win now — not just to make Zion Williamson happy… although a lot of it is to make Zion Williamson happy — and that means upgrading the roster and bringing in more shot creation and creativity. This trade is a big step down that road.

Getting off the contracts of Adams and Bledsoe for Valanciunas means the Pelicans have between $25 and $36 million in cap space this offseason (that range depends on if they keep Josh Hart or not, and it assumes they let Lonzo Ball walk).

What will the Pelicans do with that money? They reportedly want to chase free agent Kyle Lowry, although there is some buzz he isn’t as sold on New Orleans (compared to New York or other suitors). Can the Pelicans come up with a number big enough to change Lowry’s mind? If not, what is Plan B to upgrade this roster?

One way or another, the Pelicans are big game hunting this offseason, and the cap space they just created is a critical step.

Winner: The Grizzlies Draft prospects

Memphis moves up in this year’s draft to the No. 10 pick (and that 40 pick can land them a fun prospect), but the Grizzlies reportedly are not done dealing.

Getting either James Bouknight or the falling-down-draft boards Jonathan Kuminga will mean getting into the top seven picks — and the Warriors are listening to offers at No. 7. Keep an eye on the Grizzlies, they may not be done dealing.

Winner: Jaren Jackson Jr.

After missing most of last season with a torn meniscus, Jackson should be fully healthy this season, and now is stepping into a larger role with a better fit next to him in Adams. Jackson is a floor spacer and slasher, while Adams is happy to do all the dirty work inside, including the physical defensive assignments.

Next season could be a breakout one for Jackson, and Adams will help with that.

Winner: Zion Williamson

Valanciunas is not a knock-down 3-point shooter, he only averaged one shot a game from there last season. But he hit 36.8% of those looks — that makes a lot closer to a stretch five than Steven Adams. That’s what New Orleans needed. Once the Pelicans put the ball in Zion’s hands as a shot creator, Adams became an even worse fit next to Zion, clogging the paint and being in the spaces where Zion wanted to play.

Valanciunas is a better fit who can step out a little, set picks up high, and draws a defender as a bigger threat. It’s not a perfect fit with Williamson, but it’s a better one.

Also, Valanciunas is the best player in this trade — 17.5 points and 12.6 rebounds a game last season. New Orleans got better with him.

Loser: Justise Winslow

There had to be at least one loser in this deal and it is the Grizzlies’ Winslow, who had a $13 million team option for next season that will not be picked up because of this trade. The actual trade will not go down until Aug. 6 for financial reasons, and for the Grizzlies to take Bledsoe and Adams into their cap space they need to create a little more room, and that means not picking up Winslow’s option.

The Grizzlies were probably not going to pick up that option anyway, but now it is a certainty. Winslow becomes a free agent, where he will find suitors but for less money than he just lost out on.

Winner: Ja Morant

At least he feels he’s a winner.

Winner: Steven Adams

There may never have been a better fit of player and city than Adams and Memphis. The grit and grind crowd is going to love the dirty work, on the court play of Adams. Off it, they are going to love his dry sense of humor. This is a match made in heaven.