For the Pelicans, it’s a smart roll of the dice as they look for bigs to pair with Anthony Davis.
For Donatas Motiejunas, it’s a lot less money than he was hoping to get — much less than the contracts he had agreed to then didn’t get to sign — but it’s a foot in the door and a chance to prove he can play.
He signed a veteran minimum deal through the end of this season. Just a few weeks back, the Nets had signed him to a four-year, $37 million offer sheet — a contract that was incentive heavy. Then the Rockets matched the $31 million of the deal they had to (only this season was guaranteed). After that Motiejunas’ agent and the Rockets worked out a $35 million deal that gave Houston more time to opt out next summer, but that deal fell apart when Houston saw the results of his physical. They released him and made him a free agent.
The 7-foot Lithuanian big man has skills as a stretch four — two seasons ago he shot 36.8 percent from three, he can be physical inside, he’s got enough of a post game to make smaller players pay (and he’s okay against bigs), he can be physical on the boards, and you can see how he might pair well with Davis in an uptempo system for Alvin Gentry.
That is, if he’s healthy — he’s missed a lot of time with back issues, there has been surgery, and the Rockets clearly were concerned enough after his physical they were willing to let him walk rather than keep him on even through the end of this season. We may never get to see Motiejunas’ potential.
But for the Pelicans, it’s a low-risk gamble.