Though the New Orleans Pelicans have had a quiet offseason in terms of transactions, there’s a chance they could make some noise soon. The team made marginal improvements throughout July, but they are now looking to improve in the middle, with Jonas Valanciunas potentially bidding farewell to the “Big Easy.”
NBA Rumors: New Orleans Pelicans Eyeing Jonas Valanciunas Trade
New Orleans’ Offseason So Far
While dealing with issues off the court, the Pelicans by and large kept the same roster. They drafted UConn sharpshooter Jordan Hawkins with the 14th overall pick, signed Cody Zeller as a reliable backup big, and re-signed young forwards Herb Jones and E.J. Liddell—the latter of whom is recovering from a torn ACL.
With all of this in mind, New Orleans is set to run it back behind the star trio of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and C.J. McCollum, but changes are still on the horizon.
According to William Guilory and Jon Hollinger of The Athletic, the Pelicans are looking to get a younger center through the trade market, particularly after their lone young big man Jaxson Hayes departed for the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency.
Potential Trade Targets
Guilory and Hollinger noted that New Orleans is targeting Jarrett Allen and Isaiah Stewart of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons, respectively. In exchange, they could offer up a package around Valanciunas and his expiring $15 million contract.
As Hollinger mentioned, the Pelicans are in a “decent position” to acquire one of these players. They put themselves in position because of their valuable first-round picks.
“They can hang on to the unprotected Lakers and Bucks picks in case they cash in a lottery ticket, and make deals involving multiple protected firsts of their own,” he wrote.
Aside from his contract, the Pelicans reportedly want to move on from Valanciunas due to his defensive deficiencies. Additionally, they’re looking for a center who can effectively close games next to Williamson. As a result, Allen and Stewart appear to be solid options.
Known for his astounding athleticism and stellar rim protection, Jarrett Allen averaged 14.3 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in “The Land” last season. Additionally, he shot 64% from the field and 73% from the free-throw line. At 6-foot-11 and 243 pounds, Allen is a force in the paint. He recorded 32 double doubles this past season and 147 throughout his career. Though Allen may not be an efficient floor-spacer (career 18% shooter from deep), Hollinger pointed out that his defense is enough to “cover for some of [Williamson’s] weaknesses.”
Stewart, at 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds, is another optimal choice for David Griffin and co. He put up 11.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 0.7 blocks per game on 44/32/73 splits. Though he is undersized for a center, Stewart is still a respectable defender. Additionally, Isaiah spaces the floor well, unlike Valanciunas or Allen.
What This Means for Jonas Valanciunas
Valanciunas played well for the Pelicans last season, averaging 14 points and 10 rebounds while supplying 54/35/82 shooting splits. However, as mentioned earlier, his defense leaves plenty to be desired. Jonas only put up 0.7 blocks and 0.3 steals a game. With the direction the Pelicans are trending in—prioritizing the development of young players—it was a matter of time before Valanciunas is on the trading block.
Whether he’s dealt to the Cavaliers, Pistons, or a surprise sleeper team, his new squad receives a veteran big man. More specifically, a big man, who can get double-doubles any night of the week. Jonas is also a proven playoff performer (13 PPG and 10 RPG through seven career postseasons). It’s clear the 31-year-old has plenty left in the tank. His production will continue to be solid in or outside of New Orleans.
The Last Word on the New Orleans Pelicans
As training camp inches closer, the Pelicans appear motivated to make a major move towards contention. They are eager to improve after their Play-in exit (42-40, 9th in the West). New Orleans is one step closer towards accomplishing their goals. The additions to their young core is the right way to go.