Pelicans Rumors: Execs See Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe as Trade Chips amid Lowry Buzz

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJuly 22, 2021

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - MARCH 03: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelican, Eric Bledsoe #5, Lonzo Ball #2, Brandon Ingram #14 and Steven Adams #12 react against the Chicago Bulls during the second half at the Smoothie King Center on March 03, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

If the New Orleans Pelicans are going to get into the Kyle Lowry free-agent market, they'll need to shed some salary. And two veteran players in particular could fit that bill. 

According to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, "Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe were two guys that some executives I had spoken to around the league felt could be tradable guys for New Orleans. If you're going to try to offer Lowry the type of money he's looking for in free agency, they have to move one of those guys."

No surprises there. William Guillory and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic reported earlier in the week that "sources say there's an expectation that at least one of them [Adams and Bledsoe] will be on the move this offseason, with hopes of adding more depth to the roster. It's unclear how much New Orleans would be willing to give up to make sure a trade happens involving either one of them."

For the 2021-22 season, the Pelicans currently have $94.4 million in salary, per Spotrac, putting them below the $112.4 million salary cap for the upcoming season but without the needed cash to sign Lowry. There's also the $4.4 million cap hold that comes with the No. 10 overall pick to account for.

Plus, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart are each restricted free agents. The Pelicans will have to clear out cap space to bring back either player, let alone both, unless they are fine going into the luxury tax.

And if the Pelicans want to get into the Lowry sweepstakes, they'll likely need to have closer to $30 million in cap space. That's where finding a trade suitor for Bledsoe (owed $18.1 million next year), Adams ($17.1 million) or both comes into play. 

Moving off Adams would also open up more playing time for a young player like Jaxson Hayes, while Bledsoe would be somewhat redundant with Lowry as the starting point guard. The question is whether the Pelicans will be able to shed those contracts. 

They could always call up the Oklahoma City Thunder and try to attach draft picks to either player in exchange for the Thunder taking those players into cap space. The Thunder have shown a willingness to stockpile every conceivable future draft pick known to man, after all. 

Take away cap holds, and the Thunder currently have $62.4 million in active salaries for next season, leaving them with immense cap space. They'll almost assuredly use that as an asset to take on salaries in exchange for future draft picks, because they are hellbent on answering the question: Can you ever have too much draft capital?

All of this is contingent, of course, on whether Lowry will have interest in New Orleans.

It seems likely that any number of contenders in need of point guard help—think the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks, etc.—will make a run at him. He could also simply choose to return to the Toronto Raptors.

Put another way: Are the Pelicans good enough to entice Lowry over some more playoff-tested teams?

Maybe. Zion Williamson is a superstar. Brandon Ingram continues to grow into stardom himself. That's a nice one-two punch. 

It's also a one-two who are 21 and 23 years old, respectively. They're on a pretty different timeline than the 35-year-old Lowry. One would imagine the veteran point guard will take that into account.