Trading Adams for Oladipo Made Sense; Is Smart Next?


Last week, the Memphis Grizzlies traded Steven Adams in exchange for Victor Oladipo, 2024 second-round picks via Oklahoma City and Brooklyn, and a 2025 second-round pick via Houston, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The move was an obvious one for the Rockets, adding valuable (and much-needed) size and length to a young core. Adams will also provide solid rebounding and interior defense, two areas you could say the Rockets have been lackluster in.

While the Rockets obviously benefited from this deal, the real winners here were clearly the Grizzlies.

Adams was already on a decline, being on the wrong side of 30. He is due $25.2 million over the next two seasons, a steep price for an aging center coming off a serious knee injury.

Furthermore, Memphis will likely use their Disabled Player Exception (via Ja Morant’s injury) to acquire Oladipo. That allows the Grizzlies to create a $12.6 million Traded Player Exception (TPE) for Steven Adams. That TPE is potentially significantly more valuable than Adams’ contract, in the short and long term.

It just depends how they are able to use it. With Oladipo’s expiring contract, paired with the increasing likelihood of Marcus Smart being dealt (likely for an expiring or short-term deal), the Grizzlies could have up to $12 million in cap space. Smart is due $60.6 million through the 2025-26 season, and is a hot commodity for contending teams seeking a defensive, gritty upgrade.

That may not be enough to capture a star-level name in free agency (if there was one), but that’s where the trade exception comes in.

The $12.6 million TPE, paired with Luke Kennard‘s contract, $12 million further in cap space and now you have the money matched for a star-level player.

And it’s more likely than you may think.

The Grizzlies are due for a top pick in the upcoming draft, potentially even top-three. That asset alone paired with the money-matchers could capture you the next superstar that wants out.

If that isn’t enough to convince a front office to let go of an All-NBA-caliber player, that’s just fine too. The Grizzlies so happen to have five other tradeable first-round picks between 2024 and 2030, some of which could be extremely valuable.

For example, they have a 2030 first-round pick via Washington or Phoenix (whichever ends up higher). That pick may take a while to convey, but with Phoenix’s core consisting of an aging big three and a bunch of players on minimum contracts (and zero draft capital between now and then).

With Ja Morant, Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. all locked in until 2028, the potential of a fourth star could be the beginning of a new league order, of which the Grizzlies claw their way to the top.

About Nic Thomas

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