There have been a number of rumors leading up to Draft week that we could see a flurry of action and some significant moves heading into Thursday night, and the first domino fell on Monday afternoon between two Western Conference rivals.
The New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies have agreed to a blockbuster deal that will see the Pelicans clear significant cap space for this summer, while Memphis adds a quality backup point guard in Eric Bledsoe and, most importantly, moves up from No. 17 in this year’s Draft to No. 10, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
BREAKING: Memphis is finalizing a trade to send Jonas Valanciunas and 2021 Nos. 17 and 51 picks to New Orleans for Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, 2021 picks Nos. 10 and 40 and a protected 2022 first-round pick via the Lakers, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 26, 2021
The Lakers pick being sent to Memphis is also, per Andrew Lopez, top-10 protected for 2022 (although, that likely won’t come into play).
Sources tell ESPN the the 2022 Lakers’ pick will be top-10 protected. https://t.co/0VQfmrzu1M
— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) July 26, 2021
Getting off of both Bledsoe and Adams’ contracts while taking back just Valanciunas clears $21 million off of their books, which is a massive number and now allows them to seriously get into the Kyle Lowry sweepstakes. Valanciunas is also arguably a better fit alongside Zion Williamson because he is more comfortable and capable of stepping out to the perimeter to create more space at the rim for Zion, who emerged as the best rim finisher in the league last season.
For Memphis, it is clear they were comfortable using their cap space to take on two hefty contracts if it allowed them to move up in this draft to the top 10 (and add a non-lottery first next season), and they clearly have a strong feeling that the player they want desperately to join their excellent young core will be there at No. 10 overall. Who that is, exactly, remains to be seen, but Moses Moody and Josh Giddey have been names many have considered as strong candidates for a team trading up into the lottery to target.
As for Bledsoe, he apparently will not be actually going to Memphis, per Yahoo’s Chris Haynes, with the expectation seemingly that a buyout is coming.