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 LeBron’s big night: Moves into fourth in assists, triple-double, win over Knicks

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LeBron James always saves something special for Madison Square Garden.

LeBron had a triple-double of 28 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds — he became the first player in NBA history to have a triple-double in his 20th season.

That wasn’t the only bit of history, with those 11 dimes he moved past both Mark Jackson and Steve Nash into fourth on the NBA’s career assists list. And if that wasn’t enough, the 28 points moved him within 89 points of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA all-time scoring record: Abdul-Jabbar has 38,387, LeBron is now at 38,299.

For LeBron, however, what mattered most was the win — 129-123 in overtime, giving a Lakers team starved for wins its first on this road trip out East.

“I didn’t get to this point in my career by thinking about records or how many points I have, whatever the case might be,” LeBron said, via the Associated Press. “I just play the game the right way. I approach the game every night only trying to be a triple threat by scoring, rebounding, assisting, defending, and may the chips fall where they may.”

LeBron had help, with Anthony Davis adding 27 points and nine rebounds. The Knicks got 37 from Jalen Brunson, and Julius Randle had 23 points and 12 rebounds.

LeBron needed that help as he wasn’t the sharpest he had been this season, starting 2-of-8 from the floor, then missing a couple of long jumpers in the game’s final minutes when the Lakers had the chance to seal the win. But he was good enough and put on a show for the sold-out crowd in New York.

LeBron James NBA all-time scoring record tracker

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has held the NBA all-time scoring record at 38,387 points since he retired in 1989. It is one of the most iconic records in sports and one thought by many that would never be broken, but LeBron James is on the verge of breaking that scoring record and doing it at age 38. How many more points does LeBron need to take over the scoring record? When is it projected to happen? Let’s break down the latest numbers (this will be updated after every Lakers game until the record is set).

How many points does LeBron James need to set the scoring record?
89

Abdul-Jabbar career points: 38,387
LeBron career points: 38,299

Lakers’ upcoming schedule:

Feb. 2 at Pacers
Feb. 4 at Pelicans
Feb. 7 vs. Thunder
Feb. 9 vs. Bucks
Feb. 11 at Warriors

When is LeBron projected to set the all-time scoring record:

LeBron is averaging 30.2 points per game this season, at that pace he would set the record on Feb. 7 at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder, although that would be by one point, so Feb. 9 against Milwaukee is certainly a possibility.

News and notes on LeBron’s quest for the record:

• LeBron had his first triple-double of the season — and became the first player ever with one in his 20th season — scoring 28 points with 10 rebounds and 11 assists — to help lead the Lakers past the Knicks in overtime on Tuesday night. With those 11 assits LeBron moved past both Mark Jackson and Steve Nash to be fourth on the NBA’s all-time assists list.

• LeBron James did suit up to play Tuesday night against the Knicks (in Madison Square Garden on national television, that shouldn’t have been a surprise). Anthony Davis was cleared to play as well.

• After sitting out against the Nets on Monday, LeBron is officially questionable to play Tuesday in Madison Square Garden against the Knicks and will be a game-time decision. Lakers coach Darvin Ham said LeBron has “really significant soreness” in his left foot (after playing 44 minutes against Boston). LeBron and the medical staff will speak after LeBron starts to warm up Tuesday to determine if LeBron can play in Madison Square Garden, a game he hates to miss because he loves playing in that venue.

• The Lakers have officially listed LeBron (and Anthony Davis) as out for the game Monday night in Brooklyn. That is the first game of a back-to-back for the Lakers, and they have rested LeBron in half of those for most of the season. This will push back the date he breaks the record, making it likely it happens at Crypto.com Arena.

• LeBron scored 41 points — and felt he should have had a couple more — in the Lakers’ overtime loss to the Celtics Saturday on national television.

• Sixers Doc Rivers on what impresses him in LeBron’s run to this record: “LeBron has done it so differently to me [thank Kareem]. Because LeBron is not a natural scorer. LeBron is a playmaker. He got criticized early in his career for making the right decisions. And the fact that he’s now about to break the scoring record, it really points out his greatness.”

• LeBron scored 20 points in the Lakers’ win over the Spurs, a game in which Anthony Davis returned from injury and Rui Hachimura made his debut as a Laker after being traded from the Wizards.

• What has Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said about LeBron passing his record? There has been a bit of frostiness between the two men, but Abdul-Jabbar was gracious in comments to Marc Stein back in 2021 about the possibility of his record falling: “I’m excited to see it happen. I don’t see records as personal accomplishments, but more as human achievements. If one person can do something that’s never been done, that means we all have a shot at doing it. It’s a source of hope and inspiration. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile back in 1954. Since then, not only have 1,400 runners beaten that time, but the new record is 17 seconds less. We all win when a record is broken and if LeBron breaks mine, I will be right there to cheer him on.”

Paolo Banchero, Scoot Henderson highlight player pool for Rising Stars during All-Star weekend

Orlando Magic v Miami Heat
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The big winner in last year’s All-Star Friday night Rising Stars game was the new format (and Cade Cunningham). The new setup saw players onto four teams of seven, with those four teams going into a tournament bracket. The games were not timed, but players competed to a target score — something that actually had the young stars defending and playing hard. Things too often lacking All-Star weekend.

That format is back, and an impressive crop of players is involved: Rookie of the Year favorite Paolo Banchero, last year’s ROY Scottie Barnes, and expected No.2 pick in the upcoming draft Scoot Henderson of the G-League Ignite. Here is a complete list of the players competing (the rookies and sophomores will be drafted into three teams of seven players each, and the G-League players will make up their own team).

Rookies

Paolo Banchero (Orlando Magic)
Jalen Duren (Detroit Pistons)
AJ Griffin (Atlanta Hawks)
Jaden Ivey (Detroit Pistons)
Walker Kessler (Utah Jazz)
Bennedict Mathurin (Indiana Pacers)
Keegan Murray (Sacramento Kings)
Andrew Nembhard (Indiana Pacers)
Jabari Smith Jr. (Houston Rockets)
Jeremy Sochan (San Antonio Spurs)
Jalen Williams (Oklahoma City Thunder)

Sophomores

Jose Alvarado (New Orleans Pelicans)
Scottie Barnes (Toronto Raptors)
Josh Giddey (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Jalen Green (Houston Rockets)
Quentin Grimes (New York Knicks)
Bones Hyland (Denver Nuggets)
Evan Mobley (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Trey Murphy III (New Orleans Pelicans)
Alperen Sengun (Houston Rockets)
Franz Wagner (Orlando Magic)

The G-League team will consist of:

Sidy Cissoko (G League Ignite)
Scoot Henderson (G League Ignite)
Mojave King (G League Ignite)
Kenneth Lofton Jr. (Memphis Hustle)
Mac McClung (Deleware Blue Coats)
Leonard Miller (G League Ignite)
Scotty Pippen Jr. (South Bay Lakers)

There are former NBA stars to coach each of the teams: Former All-Stars Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Deron Williams will coach the three Rising Stars teams, while former Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry will coach the G League team.

There will be three games Friday night during the Rising Stars challenge, with each game played to a target score of 40. If it’s anything like last year, it’s worth tuning in.

Needing defense, Kings reportedly eyeing 76ers Thybulle for trade

Philadelphia 76ers v Sacramento Kings
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At 28-21, the Sacramento Kings sit as the No.3 seed in the West with the second-best offense in the league — they seemed destined to break their 16-year playoff drought and very well could even host a first-round playoff series.

However, their 23rd-ranked defense (using Cleaning the Glass’ numbers) will undo them come the playoffs.

That has the Kings looking for some defensive help and they are eyeing Sixers wing Matisse Thybullereports Marc Stein in his latest Substack newsletter.

Sacramento is said to be monitoring the availability of Philadelphia’s Matisse Thybulle as the Kings, unexpectedly holding the West’s No. 3 seed after a league-record 16 consecutive seasons out of the playoffs, ponder the pursuit of a more defensive-minded option on the perimeter.

Thybulle has lived in the rumor mill for a while, this is nothing new. However, those rumors carry more weight because Thybulle’s role in Philadelphia has shrunk considerably with the additions of De'Anthony Melton and P.J. Tucker as defensive-minded forwards who can provide more offense than Thybulle. Doc Rivers also leans into Georges Niang more off the bench because of his shooting.

Thybulle is in the final year of his contract and is headed for restricted free agency, the Kings might be interested in re-signing him (depending on the price and his fit with the roster). The Kings can match salaries easily enough with Davion Mitchell, Terence Davis or Alex Len, the question is who will the 76ers want back, and will the Kings need to throw in a second-round pick?

There’s some logic to this trade getting done in some form, it’s worth keeping an eye on.