For the second time in two seasons, Pitt alum Steven Adams is on the move, as the New Orleans Pelicans are finalizing a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies that will send him to the Bluff City. The deal packages Adams with Eric Bledsoe and three NBA draft picks and will net Jonas Valanciunas and two draft picks for the Pelicans, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
The Pelicans will trade down in the 2021 NBA draft to acquire Valanciunas, bringing in the No. 17 pick and the No. 51 pick in exchange for the No. 10 pick and the No. 40 pick. The Grizzlies will also receive a top-10 protected 2022 first-round pick via the Los Angeles Lakers.
In his lone season in New Orleans, Adams struggled to acclimate to his new surroundings and posted his worst scoring average since his rookie season, with 7.6 points per game. The 6’11”, 265-pound center also averaged 8.9 rebounds per game, which was his lowest rebound average since the 2016-17 season.
The down year in New Orleans ended a four-year streak in which Adams posted a double-digit scoring average on an annual basis. It also ended a three-year streak in which Adams averaged nine rebounds per game or better. And the 58-game stretch with the Pelicans continued a downward trend for Adams, as his point and rebound averages have fallen annually since peaking at 13.9 points and 9.5 rebounds per game in the 2018-19 season.
Despite taking a step down from his peak, Adams still led the Pelicans in rebounds, with 514 on the season. That pales in comparison to the 776 amassed by Valanciunas in Memphis last season while he averaged a 17.1-point, 12.5-rebound double-double. But the Grizzlies’ loss of Valanciunas leaves a void in the Memphis frontcourt that did not exist upon Adams’ arrival in New Orleans. So the trade may drop him into a better situation than the one he is set to leave behind in New Orleans.
In Memphis, Adams will play alongside one of the most promising young stars in the NBA for a second straight season, as he will team up with Ja Morant after spending last season with Zion Williamson in New Orleans. Other notable contributors on the roster include Duke alum Grayson Allen and former UCLA standout Kyle Anderson. And with eight seasons under his belt, Adams will be one of the most experienced players on the Grizzlies roster.