The New Orleans Pelicans and Jonas Valanciunas came to terms on a new contract extension today, agreeing to pay the 29-year-old center $30.1 million over the next two seasons, per ESPN’s Andrew Lopez.
New Orleans Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas has agreed on a two-year extension worth $30.1 million, his agents Aaron Mintz, Mitch Nathan and Drew Morrison of @CAA_Basketball tell ESPN.— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) October 20, 2021
Valanciunas is now committed to the Pelicans for $44.1M over the next three seasons.
It may feel like déjà vu from a year ago, but it isn’t quite the same. Sure, the Pelicans are committing themselves to a center without first seeing how the pieces fit together on the court; however, this move locks in a much more versatile offensive center for less money than the organization had agreed to pay Steven Adams upon trading for him from OKC.
As I wrote a few days ago:
The nine-year center is in the midst of his prime, coming off his best season as a pro with the Grizzlies. He averaged 17.1 points and 12.5 rebounds, doing most of his damage in the paint. He is elite in the post and on the glass. Only nine other players hit more field goals in the restricted area, but unlike traditional bigs, Valanciunas proved more than adept from any range.
|Jonas Valanciunas||67.4 FG%||52.0 FG%||55.8 FG%||36.8 3PT%|
|Nikola Jokic||70.2 FG%||56.9 FG%||51.5 FG%||38.8 3PT%|
Nikola Jokic is obviously the gold standard, but strictly from an efficiency standpoint, Valanciunas compared really well to the MVP candidate last season. Being a reliable weapon that draws the eyes of opposing defenses from various parts of the floor should prove invaluable.
Standing alone, Valanciunas’ extension is very reasonable in the grand scheme of things, placing him right in the middle of paid centers around the league starting next season. And that’s before considering free agents like DeAndre Ayton and Jusuf Nurkic earn new deals.
Jonas Valanciunas will be the 11th highest paid center next season.— David Fisher (@Fish_TBW) October 20, 2021
Valanciunas last year was the 5th highest center in PPG behind Embiid, Jokic, Vucevic, and Adebayo.
Valanciunas last year was 3rd in the entire league in RPG behind Gobert and Capela.
One interesting question raised by today’s signing, where does this leave Jaxson Hayes? New Orleans’ 21-year-old rising center will be due for a new contract soon, potentially an extension of his own next offseason. If Hayes proves worthy of a new tidy sum, the Pelicans could be on the hook for paying two centers big money starting in the 2023-24 season.
Personally, I don’t see the need for concern today. If Hayes blossoms as everyone hopes, the Pelicans could look to include Valanciunas in a future trade — his deal appears to be team-friendly. If he doesn’t, the Pelicans have insurance in the form of a center who should fit at least reasonably well alongside Zion Williamson.
A somewhat harsh lesson was learned after Adams didn’t prove the answer next to Zion so let’s not rush to final judgement. But locking up a revered player in the paint, who can space the floor sufficiently enough and cleans the glass like so few others — and is coming off the best season of his career — doesn’t feel the boldest of moves. Not at this price.