The Grizzlies and Pelicans Make a Big Trade Ahead of Draft Night (With Lonzo Ball Implications)

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The Grizzlies and Pelicans Make a Big Trade Ahead of Draft Night (With Lonzo Ball Implications)

Chicago Bulls

The first domino has fallen, folks! ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Monday that the Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans have agreed on a deal with tons of moving parts.

Here is what we’re looking at:

Pelicans receive: Jonas Valanciunas, No. 17 draft pick this year, and the No. 51 draft pick this year

Grizzlies receive: Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, No. 10 pick this year, No. 40 pick this year, and a protected 2022 first-round pick (via Lakers)

Why so much draft compensation for Memphis? Well, New Orleans has reportedly been interested in dumping the contracts of Adams and Bledsoe since the trade deadline. The two veterans are owed a combined $35.1 million during the 2021-22 season, which greatly diminished any flexibility New Orleans had this offseason. While both players can still be considered decent role players, each can also be considered vastly overpaid. With that being the case, it was always assumed that the organization would have to include draft capital as a sweetener in any potential deal.

Opening up that much cap space this summer will allow for New Orleans to make a legitimate run at Kyle Lowry, which could, in turn, make Bulls target Lonzo Ball more expendable (unfortunately, it’s not so simple, so hold onto that thought). Word spread earlier this month that the team was interested in the veteran point guard, as they try to speed up their competitive timeline around Zion Williamson. Getting him to sign a contract will not be easy, though, as Lowry is one of the most coveted free agents on the market and is expected to have a number of contending teams knocking at his door.

For Memphis, the departure of Jonas Valanciunas might be a tough pill to swallow, but they have added strong draft assets to continue their growth around 2019 No. 2-overall pick Ja Morant. Also, if what Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes has reported is true, they may be able to avoid paying Bledsoe’s contract too.

Turning back to New Orleans, I’ve already seen several Bulls fans take a virtual jump for joy knowing New Orleans now has the money to attack a Lowry signing (again, for what it could mean to a Chicago-Ball pursuit). But not so fast. While it does appear the franchise wants to spend on a new starting point guard, thus putting Ball’s future with the franchise in jeopardy, the team now has more money to match a potential offer sheet if it came to that. With the dollars owed to Bledsoe and Adams, the Pelicans practically had to refuse to pay Ball to add any fresh blood. Now, the team has the kind of flexibility that could allow for them to easily match a Ball offer sheet if a Lowry pursuit falls flat. So you’re rooting interest there is for Lowry to end up in New Orleans.

Considering all the previous chatter, I would still imagine Ball is playing elsewhere next season (and I would still imagine they are open to a S&T deal), but this does create an easier path for the front office to retain him. Chicago has to keep that in mind.

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.