Point guard may be the most important NBA position to ensure that a team’s offense runs effectively. Center might be the most vital position at the other end of the floor, often the last line of defense in the paint. During the early portion of what’s been a predictably hectic offseason across the league, the New Orleans Pelicans managed to add a proven, veteran starter in both spots.
Via a complicated, multi-team trade, Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams were acquired by New Orleans, giving the Pelicans a pair of players who’ve been vital members of perennial playoff teams. Bledsoe has been a starter each of the past seven seasons, including for three straight Milwaukee postseason squads. With Bledsoe starting 139 times for the Bucks since 2018-19, they sported the league’s best regular season record two consecutive seasons. Meanwhile, Adams was an every-night starting center for Oklahoma City each of the past six seasons, five of which resulted in playoff appearances.
With longest-tenured Pelican Jrue Holiday headed to Milwaukee in the exchange, New Orleans also obtained multiple future draft picks, as David Griffin continues to focus on trying to position the franchise for – in Griffin’s words – “long-term and sustainable success.”
“New Orleans got Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, three (first-round picks), two pick swaps and are still a top-eight team in the West,” tweeted ESPN analyst Bobby Marks this weekend. “Nice job of retooling the roster post-Jrue Holiday, without taking a major step back.”
The Pelicans entered 2019-20 with a goal of reaching the Western Conference playoffs and appeared on track to achieve that objective prior to the league shutting down in March due to COVID-19. New Orleans’ chances of earning at least a West play-in round berth were hampered greatly by a 21st-place finish in defensive efficiency, an area in which Bledsoe and Adams should help. Bledsoe is coming off two straight NBA All-Defense appearances, while Adams has been a defensive focal point on Oklahoma City clubs that ranked in the top 10 in efficiency for four consecutive seasons, including seventh last season, despite an overhauled Thunder roster.
“With Adams, the Pelicans directly address two of last season’s primary areas of concern: defensive rebounding and rim protection,” wrote SI.com, which gave New Orleans an A-minus grade for its multi-pronged trade. “There may not have been a better player on the market in that respect, the 27-year-old Adams having deftly anchored playoff-caliber teams for each of the past five seasons.”
The trade simultaneously helped set up the Pelicans with additional draft picks over much of this decade, combining with the 2019 Lakers trade to provide extra chances to obtain young talent. To use one example, in 2025 New Orleans could own up to three first-round picks, already claiming Milwaukee’s but with a chance to also secure the Lakers’ selection.
“The David Griffin-led moves have been largely applauded,” USA Today assessed, “with the Pelicans getting strong returns in the deals, largely in the form of a host of draft picks.”