By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — Despite having a solid season that returned them to the playoffs, the Memphis Grizzlies are reportedly planning a major trade prior to Thursday’s NBA draft. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Grizzlies will trade their starting center Jonas Valanciunas and the 17th overall pick to New Orleans in exchange for Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe and two future first-round picks, one of them being the number 10 pick in this year’s draft.
By moving up to the number 10 position this year and also getting extra picks the Grizzlies might wind up with three first round picks in 2022, though two would be protected by either Utah or the Lakers. The trade cannot be officially finalized until the start of free agency next week (August 6) because of the various salaries. Valanciunas’ salary is $14 million, while Adams is $17.1 million and Bledsoe’s $18.1.
Valancuinas, 29, had a strong season for the Grizzlies. He averaged 17.1 points and 12.5 rebounds, shooting a career best 59.2 percent from the floor despite playing only 28.3 minutes a night. He also was a nearly 37 (36.8) percent shooter from three-point territory and finished third in the league in rebounding and in double-doubles.
But the Grizzlies wanted to get more depth and youth. Bledsoe and Adams both had disappointing seasons in New Orleans, but the hope is that both will bounce back. More importantly, the Grizzlies can now get a better first round pick this season and have a chance at getting even more in 2022.