Winners, lots of winners, from Pelicans, Grizzlies trade

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The best trades should be win-win for both sides.

It rarely works out that way, which is why we break down the winners and losers from trades. However, the first big pre-Draft trade came down Monday between the Grizzlies and the Pelicans, and there are a lot of winners and not really many losers. You could try to argue Eric Bledsoe is a loser, but he didn’t fit well in New Orleans and we don’t know where he’s ultimately going to end up — it’s not Memphis — so it’s too early to make that call. Plus, he’s still going to get paid a lot of money to play NBA basketball next season. That’s not losing in my book.

Instead, let’s break down all the winners from the trade. As a reminder, the trade sends Jonas Valanciunas and this year’s Nos. 17 and 51 picks to New Orleans, while Memphis gets Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, the Nos. 10 and 40 picks in this draft, plus a top-10 and a protected 2022 first-round (the Lakers’ pick)

Winner: New Orleans Pelicans — if they land a star with that cap space

The Pelicans want to win now — not just to make Zion Williamson happy… although a lot of it is to make Zion Williamson happy — and that means upgrading the roster and bringing in more shot creation and creativity. This trade is a big step down that road.

Getting off the contracts of Adams and Bledsoe for Valanciunas means the Pelicans have between $25 and $36 million in cap space this offseason (that range depends on if they keep Josh Hart or not, and it assumes they let Lonzo Ball walk).

What will the Pelicans do with that money? They reportedly want to chase free agent Kyle Lowry, although there is some buzz he isn’t as sold on New Orleans (compared to New York or other suitors). Can the Pelicans come up with a number big enough to change Lowry’s mind? If not, what is Plan B to upgrade this roster?

One way or another, the Pelicans are big game hunting this offseason, and the cap space they just created is a critical step.

Winner: The Grizzlies Draft prospects

Memphis moves up in this year’s draft to the No. 10 pick (and that 40 pick can land them a fun prospect), but the Grizzlies reportedly are not done dealing.

Getting either James Bouknight or the falling-down-draft boards Jonathan Kuminga will mean getting into the top seven picks — and the Warriors are listening to offers at No. 7. Keep an eye on the Grizzlies, they may not be done dealing.

Winner: Jaren Jackson Jr.

After missing most of last season with a torn meniscus, Jackson should be fully healthy this season, and now is stepping into a larger role with a better fit next to him in Adams. Jackson is a floor spacer and slasher, while Adams is happy to do all the dirty work inside, including the physical defensive assignments.

Next season could be a breakout one for Jackson, and Adams will help with that.

Winner: Zion Williamson

Valanciunas is not a knock-down 3-point shooter, he only averaged one shot a game from there last season. But he hit 36.8% of those looks — that makes a lot closer to a stretch five than Steven Adams. That’s what New Orleans needed. Once the Pelicans put the ball in Zion’s hands as a shot creator, Adams became an even worse fit next to Zion, clogging the paint and being in the spaces where Zion wanted to play.

Valanciunas is a better fit who can step out a little, set picks up high, and draws a defender as a bigger threat. It’s not a perfect fit with Williamson, but it’s a better one.

Also, Valanciunas is the best player in this trade — 17.5 points and 12.6 rebounds a game last season. New Orleans got better with him.

Loser: Justise Winslow

There had to be at least one loser in this deal and it is the Grizzlies’ Winslow, who had a $13 million team option for next season that will not be picked up because of this trade. The actual trade will not go down until Aug. 6 for financial reasons, and for the Grizzlies to take Bledsoe and Adams into their cap space they need to create a little more room, and that means not picking up Winslow’s option.

The Grizzlies were probably not going to pick up that option anyway, but now it is a certainty. Winslow becomes a free agent, where he will find suitors but for less money than he just lost out on.

Winner: Ja Morant

At least he feels he’s a winner.

Winner: Steven Adams

There may never have been a better fit of player and city than Adams and Memphis. The grit and grind crowd is going to love the dirty work, on the court play of Adams. Off it, they are going to love his dry sense of humor. This is a match made in heaven.

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

Three things to know: Joel Embiid returns, scores final 11 vs. Hawks

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Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Joel Embiid returns, scores final 11 vs. Hawks in 76ers win

The 76ers went 3-1 with Joel Embiid sidelined by a left mid-foot sprain, but they are so much more a dangerous team with him.

Embiid scored the 76ers’ final 11 points of the game against the Hawks, including the go-ahead 10-foot jumper with 18.6 seconds left, to cap a 30-point night and lift the Sixers past the Hawks 104-101.

Embiid was making critical defensive plays down the stretch as well.

Embiid finished with 30 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two blocks. That’s five straight 30+ point games for Embiid, who picked up right where he left off before the injury.

Well, not exactly pick up at the start as Embiid was 1-of-7 shooting to open the game, and he wasn’t the only Sixers rusty at the start. Embiid seemed focused on sharing the ball early but settled into an offensive balance as the game went on. Philly was saved by a solid defensive night.

The 76ers continue to pick up wins with James Harden and Tyrese Maxey out, which is a good sign going forward.

That’s three-straight losses for the Hawks, a loss that stings because they should have been able to dominate the shorthanded 76ers backcourt and get the win.

2) Karl-Anthony Towns goes down with concerning leg injury

Let’s hope the optimistic report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN is right and this isn’t as severe as it looked. Because it looked bad.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony simply was pushing off to run back upcourt when he fell to the ground — without contact — grabbing his knee and calf.

Towns was helped back to the locker room and did not return, with the Timberwolves officially saying he was out for the rest of the night with a calf strain.

A calf strain would be the best possible outcome. An MRI Monday will tell us more.

Towns’ stats are down this season as he adjusts to the odd fit of playing next to Rudy Gobert, but he is still averaging 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game.

The Wizards got a monster night from Kristaps Porzingis — a career-high 41 points — on their way to a 142-127 victory. When Porzingis is on this Washington team is tough to beat.

3) Big shots fall at Lakers’ game

Two big shots defined the night at the crypto.com arena Monday.

First, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 with a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

The second one hurt the Lakers more. Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

The Lakers got lost in the scramble. On the initial action, Russell Westbrook doubled Bennedict Mathurin in the corner, which left the screen setter Myles Turner open at the top for a clean look at a 3 — but he was short and came off the front of the rim. Tyrese Haliburton out-hustled everyone to the rebound and tried to create his own shot but saw Nembhard wide open and kicked him the rock.

Ballgame.

The Pacers split their two games in Los Angeles at the start of a seven-game road trip through the West.

The Lakers had won 5-of-6 against a soft part of the schedule but that is about to change and over the next few weeks we will get a sense of where this 7-12 team really stands.

Watch Pacers’ Andrew Nembhard drain game-winning 3 to beat Lakers

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LeBron James and Anthony Davis were on the court together (and combined for 46 points and 20 rebounds). Russell Westbrook continued to thrive as a sixth man with 24 points.

But the biggest shot of the night belonged to Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard — a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

It was a well-designed play and when Westbrook chased and doubled Bennedict Mathurin in the corner it left the screen setter, Myles Turner, wide open for a clean look at a 3 — but he hit the front of the rim. The long rebound caromed out, Tyrese Haliburton grabbed it and tried to create, but then he saw Nembhard wide open and kicked him the rock.

Ballgame.

The Pacers split their two games in Los Angeles at the start of a seven-game road trip through the West that will test the surprising Pacers.

For the Lakers… they have some hard decisions to make coming up.