On Monday afternoon, the Pelicans and Grizzlies were involved in what will likely be one of many trades to be made this NBA offseason. New Orleans was able to move the contracts of Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams at the expense of the No. 10 and No. 40 picks in this year’s draft, as well as a protected first-round pick next year from the Lakers, to Memphis in exchange for center Jonas Valanciunas and the No. 17 and No. 51 picks in this year’s draft.
Now, with a Top-10 pick and the possibility of moving Eric Bledsoe again, there are a lot of possibilities for the Memphis Grizzlies, but the focal point of this trade revolves around the New Orleans Pelicans. By moving Bledsoe and Adams for Valanciunas, New Orleans not only opened up $21.16M in cap space, but they now have the ability to make some noise in free agency.
The Pelicans now have roughly $38.75M in cap space to play around with once this trade is official and while they could look to bring back both Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart, they likely will not look to do so before going after some of the better free agents available on the market.
New Orleans wants to win now with Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson, which is why they will likely look to target Kyle Lowry, one of the bigger names available this offseason.
Lowry is an unrestricted free agent this offseason and Marc Stein of The New York Times reported last week that the Pelicans had “entered the race” to pursue the 6x All-Star guard, but they needed available cap space to do so. Now, with Bledsoe and Adams off their roster, the Pelicans have the money they need to aggressively pursue Lowry without having to do a sign-and-trade for him.
This is really big news that they will not need to pursue him via a sign-and-trade because in doing so, the Pelicans would have hard-capped themselves, something they have never done in their 19-season history being an NBA franchise as the Pelicans/Hornets.
The Heat, Lakers, 76ers, Mavericks and Raptors are all expected to make pitches to Lowry in free agency according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, but the Pelicans actually have some very strong selling points now. Not only do they have the cap space to offer Kyle Lowry a $30M/year contract that he will likely want, but they have a lot to offer in terms of having a competitive team.
Jonas Valanciunas is one of the more underrated big men in the league and proved that this season, finishing third in the league in total offensive rebounds during the regular season (253) and finishing third in the league in total rebounds per game (12.5 RPG). Valanciunas is a high-level player for the Pelicans now, as are both Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson, who are young talents that have proven to be All-Star-level players.
Adding a third All-Star to this team in Kyle Lowry gives the Pelicans a very high-caliber starting unit and they could still hypothetically bring back Josh Hart to be their shooting guard. Hypothetically, New Orleans could have a roster of Lowry, Hart, Ingram, Williamson, Valanciunas, Alexander-Walker, Hayes and others, which would definitely be considered a playoff threat.
Finding ways to win now is why the Pelicans would pursue Kyle Lowry so heavily in free agency and now with cap space, they can make this a reality. Brandon Ingram is under contract for several seasons and Zion Williamson is under contract on a rookie deal through the 2022-23 season, but there have been some frustrations coming from both players over the years.
Williamson is going to be playing for his third head coach in as many years in the league and there have been some rumors about Ingram potentially looking at other places he could request a trade to in order to “win-now,” which is why the Pelicans want to assure their stars that they can be a successful organization in the Western Conference.
Bringing in Kyle Lowry not only makes the Pelicans a better team, but he really could be a huge, positive influence on younger guys like Ingram and Zion on this roster. They have never really been led by a veteran player of Lowry’s caliber before, which is why this could be a great move for the Pelicans to make as it relates to off-the-court activities as well.
Kyle Lowry is a proven, NBA champion point guard and has a lot of respect around the league. Coming into New Orleans and becoming a role model/leader for guys like Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson could not only go a long way in helping this franchise finally achieve playoff success, but this move could go a long way in ensuring that both of their young All-Stars want to stay in New Orleans for years to come.
Moving on from Lonzo Ball would be hard for the Pelicans to do, especially since he is a young talent himself coming off his best year in the NBA, but they would have to do so if they were to sign Kyle Lowry. Ball currently has a $27.5M cap hold this offseason and there really would not be a need for the Pelicans to pay Lonzo Ball if they were to acquire Lowry.
It seems like the New Orleans Pelicans made the move to trade Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams with the mindset of pursuing one of the big names in free agency and it would make a lot of sense for them to bring in Kyle Lowry. They have a need for an experienced point guard and with the necessary cap space to sign him outright now, the Pelicans will likely be one of the front-runners to land Kyle Lowry this offseason when free agency begins.