Jonas Valanciunas, Pelicans Agree to 2-Year, $30.1M Contract Extension

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVOctober 20, 2021

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - OCTOBER 06: Jonas Valanciunas #17 of the New Orleans Pelicans reacts during a preseason game at the Smoothie King Center on October 06, 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

The New Orleans Pelicans and Jonas Valanciunas agreed to a two-year, $30.1 million extension Wednesday, according to ESPN's Andrew Lopez.

The veteran center is signed for $14 million this season, and his new contract will go into effect in the 2022-23 campaign. This is his first year with the Pelicans, who acquired him from the Memphis Grizzlies as part of a three-team trade.

ESPN's Bobby Marks provided context about the financial particulars:

Bobby Marks @BobbyMarks42

The two year $14.7M and $15.4M extension was the maximum that New Orleans could offer right now.<br><br>Valanciunas was traded in the offseason and the most he could sign for was a total of three seasons (including what was left on his contract) and a 5% raise. <a href="https://t.co/RpANzsodDZ">https://t.co/RpANzsodDZ</a>

Valanciunas averaged 17.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 0.9 blocks with Memphis in 2020-21. He also provided some floor-spacing, hitting 21 three-pointers and knocking down 36.8 percent of his long-range opportunities.

The six playoffs trips he made with the Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors should also be beneficial to a franchise looking to make a breakthrough.

Will Guillory @WillGuillory

Quote from David Griffin on the Devonte’ Graham, Jonas Valanciunas additions in the Pels release <a href="https://t.co/5LgL8jrwg1">pic.twitter.com/5LgL8jrwg1</a>

By hammering out extension terms now, the Pelicans avoid a possible bidding war for Valanciunas next offseason. A $15 million annual salary should be solid value too.

The 29-year-old, meanwhile, is getting long-term security. Free agency can be unforgiving for older big men, so there was no guarantee he'd get the kind of contract the Pels offered. Andre Drummond is a two-time All-Star and four-time rebounding champion, and he settled for the veteran minimum with the Philadelphia 76ers in August.

This may not provide much certainty about Valanciunas' future in New Orleans, though.

The Pelicans handed Steven Adams a two-year deal last November after his trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder, but they moved him to the Grizzlies as part of the Valanciunas trade.

Zion Williamson is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in 2024, and nothing looms larger for the organization than his commitment beyond that. If the front office has any reservations about Valanciunas' fit in the frontcourt, then it may have to consider yet another center option to pair with Williamson inside.


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