The New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies have two of the best young players in the NBA in Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, respectively the No. 1 and 2 picks in the 2019 NBA Draft overall. Ahead of the 2021 NBA Draft on Thursday, the franchises made a pretty big trade with Memphis sending center Jonas Valanciunas and picks No. 17 and 51 Thursday to New Orleans for center Steven Adams, guard Eric Bledsoe, picks Nos. 10 and 40 Thursday and a protected 2022 first-round pick via the Lakers. Will that help either team win a title next year? Nope, but the SportsLine Projection Model sees a clear winner and loser.
This trade won't become official until Aug. 6, when free agency begins. Valanciunas is the best current player in the deal. This past season, he averaged 17.1 points and a career-high 12.5 rebounds per game. That rebound average was third in the NBA as were his career-best 49 double-doubles. He helped the Grizzlies lead the NBA in second-chance points. Memphis must have someone it likes like in mind with the No. 10 pick this week to give up JV.
Both Bledsoe and Adams arrived in New Orleans last offseason when the Pelicans sent Jrue Holiday to the Milwaukee Bucks in a trade. The Pelicans signed Adams to a two-year, $35 million extension shortly after. He averaged 7.6 points and 8.9 rebounds, while Bledsoe really fell off from his prime Bucks days, averaging 12.2 points and his once-terrific defensive prowess slipping.
Bledsoe has two years left on his current contract at $18.1 million in 2021-22 and $19.4 million the following season and the Pelicans essentially had to pay Memphis a tax to dump that deal. Now, the Pels have the cap space to possibly match an offer sheet for restricted free agent guard Lonzo Ball or sign another guard in free agency like perhaps Raptors All-Star Kyle Lowry.
The Grizzlies were 38-34 in the shortened 72-game 2020-21 regular season and upset the Golden State Warriors in the play-in tournament to reach the official Western Conference postseason field. There, Memphis lost in five in the first round to Utah.
The model had forecast Memphis to win 45.2 games next season, which will be the usual 82 games, but now drops the team to 41.6 by subtracting Valanciunas and adding Adams and Bledsoe. The Grizzlies' playoff chances drop a shocking 28.4 percent.
Meanwhile, the model is very high on Valanciunas because of his shooting efficiency and rebounding and he is a big improvement on Adams. It also sees New Orleans improving simply by dumping Bledsoe. The Pelicans improved from 35.6 forecasted wins to 39.1 – essentially adding an All-Star -- and their playoff chances in the very tough West rose from 10.2 percent to 33.9 percent. The team has a new head coach in Willie Green.
At William Hill Sportsbook, both teams are +8000 to win the NBA title. Betting win totals likely won't be out until September.
|w/ Adams, Bledsoe||41.6||57.80%||49.40%||0.50%||0.10%|
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