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Examining latest trade and free agent rumors surrounding Pelicans

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Making sense of the Kyle Lowry, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams and Myles Turner puzzle pieces

New Orleans Pelicans v Toronto Raptors Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Don’t be surprised if the New Orleans Pelicans starting lineup has up to three new faces next season, with Lonzo Ball, Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams all playing elsewhere.

Smoke has consistently surrounded Ball since before the last trade deadline and now throughout this offseason.

Where there’s a lot of smoke in the NBA, there’s probably a raging fire, but the Pelicans will not simply let a valuable asset leave town for nothing and also create a void at point guard without a trustworthy replacement.

While Kira Lewis may fully grab the reins one day, it can’t be expected tomorrow. There’s immense pressure to win now thanks to the uneasiness filtering out of Zion Williamson’s camp so New Orleans will not entrust a vast amount of responsibilities to a guard still trying to find his footing in the league. If the Pelicans do decide to move on from Ball, it would be because they are bringing in an upgrade in the decision-making and leadership departments.

Enter Kyle Lowry, who has been linked to the Pelicans often over the last week.

The 35-year-old veteran, who has spent the last nine seasons with the Raptors, will not come cheap as the Pelicans are going to have to top offers from competitors — that is if Lowry first agrees to spend the twilight of his career on a team that has yet to make the playoffs in this current build.

In addition to likely presenting him the greatest financial security, New Orleans must also give Lowry plenty of hope that immediate success is right around the corner. That’s why yesterday’s rumor is of great interest.

According to multiple sources, the Pelicans and Grizzlies are discussing a trade revolving around New Orleans’ 10th overall pick and Eric Bledsoe for Memphis’ 17th pick.

Sources said the Pelicans have generated traction with the Grizzlies in a framework that would swap that 10th selection for the 17th pick while also sending Eric Bledsoe back to Memphis.

I fully expect if this scenario becomes a reality, the Pelicans attaining a valuable traded player exception (TPE) in the amount of $18,125,000 (+100K) would be key in facilitating the deal with the Grizzlies. Getting off Bledsoe’s contract because so few teams are willing to add him to their books for next season is an important step in opening up space for another high-minute roster addition for New Orleans.

With Adams regularly clogging up the paint for the drive-centric attacks of Ingram and Zion and not making the desired impact defensively, his fit on the Pelicans is a poor one. And with his name getting mentioned several times in trade rumors this offseason, there should be an expectation that the Pelicans are seeking an upgrade to their starting center position as well.

Again, while Jaxson Hayes may very well be the future at that spot, David Griffin’s front office is not in position to gamble right now and place such a heavy burden on a 21-year-old. Thus, at least short-term relief would be necessary. That’s why Myles Turner being linked to the Pelicans by Shams Charania in an article yesterday should have our attention.

New Orleans and Charlotte have expressed interest in Pacers center Myles Turner, sources said.

While there’s a lot of good names that would fit neatly into a Bledsoe TPE — I’m intrigued by Shamit’s idea of going Point Zion full bore and utilizing the newly created traded player exception to add a shooter like Bojan Bogdanovic, Turner represents a more plausible route in my eyes. He offers a great last line of defense in the paint single-handedly and has the ability to space the floor some with his perimeter jumper. Plus, there’s still a chance a more gravity-inducing shooter could be added via a Lonzo Ball sign-and-trade.

One potential landing spot for Adams could be Toronto. While it’s rumored they have no interest in Bledsoe, Adams’s name was not included in that stipulation. The Raptors do have a hole at center that needs filling and Adams could provide temporary relief. Moreover, a 17th pick acquired from the Grizzlies could be routed to Toronto, which could then be utilized to select the future at the position. Perhaps Kai Jones or Usman Garuba could be Masai Ujiri’s target?

If Jalen Suggs is selected as anticipated and he doesn’t net the Raptors a star like Damian Lillard or Ben Simmons in a trade, Lowry would have to see the writing on the wall. A future franchise-changing point guard isn’t going to be asked to bide his time in the wings. Would a handsome new contract and a starting lineup that includes Ingram, Zion, Turner and another impact starter (say Marcus Smart or Duncan Robinson), to go along with a very talented bench, be enough to lure Lowry to New Orleans? I say perhaps.

Oh, and as far as the latest Ingram-to-Miami rumors seen swirling on social media the last 24 hours, I’m putting very little stock into them. I do believe that New Orleans did its due diligence by examining the values of everyone on the roster not named Zion soon after the 2020-21 season concluded, but that time has passed, especially with Stan Van Gundy getting replaced by Willie Green and B.I. recently visiting with Trajan Langdon in Phoenix.

The world watched Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton — two forwards who stylistically resemble Zion and Ingram — lead Milwaukee to their first championship in 50 years after the Bucks pushed the right buttons with Jrue Holiday and Bobby Portis. Heavy tinkering around the Pelicans’ two cornerstones feels the appropriate path and we’re seemingly on the verge of seeing it play out accordingly.

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.