3 trades surrounding Lonzo Ball

A Bull market on Lonzo Ball? Not with so many questions unanswered -  Chicago Sun-Times

Derick Hingle/AP

Before we get into the thick of it, let’s get one point across — this is NOT an article advocating for trading Lonzo Ball. This is an article exploring the idea of trading Ball, since the conversation has been so prevalent among NBA and New Orleans Pelicans fans, especially given his father’s recent comments.

Ball is currently having the best stretch of his career to date. Not only is he averaging career highs in points per game (14.2), free throw percentage (76.7) and three point percentage (38.5), he’s no. 12 league-wide in three-pointers made (114). He’s also the best on and off-ball defender for the Pelicans.

Given those statistics, the fact that he’s just 23 years old and this is the first season he’s been forced to embrace something other than the point guard role, even considering trading Ball sounds pretty wack.

There are key details that have to be considered, though. 

First off, while he will be a restricted free agent this offseason, Ball is in the final year of his contract, and he’s looking for a major pay day. According to Bobby Marks, ESPN cap expert, he believes the Pelicans won’t match any offer that is over $18 million for Ball. Given the way he’s playing right now, it’d be pretty surprising if a team like the New York Knicks, with all their cap space, didn’t make an astronomical offer to Ball this summer. If not the Knicks, someone in the league will be willing to pull out their metaphorical wallet and hand it over to Lonzo this offseason. Not only that, but the agency that represents Ball, Klutch, is known for grabbing each athlete they represent the most money they could possibly earn. 

Secondly, Ball hasn’t been the most consistent in his NBA career. In the month of January, the UCLA product shot 39.7 percent from the field and 33.8 percent from three. He went to the line a whopping three times over that month as well. 

In the Orlando bubble, Ball averaged just 7.1 points, 6.6 assists and five rebounds while shooting 30.5 percent from the field. He also shot 28.7 percent from three. 

His career numbers haven’t been all that impressive either. At 11.4 points, 6.4 assists and 5.8 rebounds, his stats don’t exactly jump off the page. He’s also a career 53.8 percent free throw shooter and 35.2 percent three point shooter.

Not exactly no. 2 overall pick in the draft type numbers.

There’s an argument to be made for both sides. Pay him, don’t pay him. Trade him, don’t trade him. Either way of thinking can be made valid depending on how one looks at the situation. 

If the Pels do decide to move on from Ball, there are a plethora of teams that have been rumored to have interest, and that may be willing to give up assets based on his play as of late, rather than his entire body of work. 

Now, bear yourself. These trade options are a lot to take in. 

Option 1

Pelicans receive: Aaron Gordon, Al Farouq-Aminu

Knicks receive: Lonzo Ball, JJ Redick

Magic receive: Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina, Reggie Bullock, Lakers 2021 first, Knicks 2022 First

Ball ends up in the Big Apple with an organization that has been rumored to have interest in him since this offseason. With the plethora of issues the Knicks have had at the guard position this season, it makes sense for them to go after Ball now. 

Ball would have to readjust to the point guard role, but having his teammate in Redick join him, plus the ascension of New York in the Eastern Conference, could make things go a little smoother.

The Pelicans end up with not just one veteran wing that can help their team defense, but two. Gordon, the no. 4 overall pick in the 2014 draft, steps in and is able to guard opposing team’s best players — Giannis Antetokounmpo, Devin Booker, LeBron James, etc. In losing Ball, the Pels will need a player they acquire to be their primary defender — Gordon helps that in a big way. Aminu, who has had trouble staying healthy the last two seasons, is able to limit his minutes as Josh Hart can fill in for Gordon off the bench. Aminu can help should he fit, but isn’t necessarily needed. 

Offensively, Gordon isn’t known as a spacer, but his three point percentage has made a major hike this season, jumping from 30.8 percent in 2019-2020 to 41.1 percent in 2020-2021. He’s also averaging 14.8 points, hauling in 6.8 rebounds and dishing out 4.1 assists (a career high)  per game. 

The Magic take the deal, as they’re able to bring in young talent in Ntilikina (who is on an expiring contract) and Knox, a veteran shooter in Bullock and two first round picks. That Laker pick is looking better right about now, given James was recently diagnosed with a high ankle sprain and is out indefinitely. 

Option 2

Pelicans receive: Miles Bridges, Alec Burks

Hornets receive: Lonzo Ball, Eric Gordon, David Nwaba

Knicks receive: Victor Oladipo, Devonte Graham

Rockets receive: Mitchell Robinson, Cody Zeller, Frank Knitilikina, Malik Monk, Kevin Knox II, Cleveland 2022 second round pick (via New Orleans) Detroit 2022 second round pick (via New York)

Lavar gets two-thirds of his dream fulfilled — Lonzo and LaMelo are on the same team in the NBA.

Sure, the Hornets are playing damn good basketball right now, especially given the mediocrity-ridden history of the Hornets. Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier are both averaging over 20 points per game, PJ Washington and LaMelo are shining young talents and Charlotte sits at sixth in the Eastern Conference. 

But, what if they could be better. 

Pairing the Ball brothers is fun as hell and adding a three-point shooter and veteran in Eric Gordon could add to their offensive firepower. As the Hornets continue to grow with their youth, why not lock in the other Ball brother for the immediate future? All the more reason for players like LaMelo and Washington to stick around. Lonzo also steps in and improves the team defense greatly for Charlotte. 

For the Pelicans, they end up with an explosive, intense wing who can step into the starting lineup or come off the bench and give them the spark they need every night. Between Zion Williamson’s thunderous dunks and Bridges’ sky-high vertical, the Pelicans could very well turn into Lob City 2.0. Alec Burks comes in from New York and adds more three-point shooting to the second unit. 

The Knicks really go for it here. With Houston holding Victor Oladipo readily available and Devonte Graham taking a step back for the Hornets, these two get their second chance at winning and providing exactly what the Knicks need to truly be relevant again. 

New York has shown their capability on the defensive end of the floor this season, currently ranking fourth on that end under the tutelage of Tom Thibodeau. Between RJ Barrett and Julius Randle though, they just don’t have enough firepower to keep up with the best teams in the East. Oladipo and Graham come in and take the offense up a notch. 

Giving up Oladipo and Gordon couldn’t get much better for the Houston Rockets here, as they end up with a talented young scorer in Malik Monk (who could also pair well with Christian Wood in the near future), a dynamic center in Mitchell Robinson, two picks, and potential long term additions in Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina. Zeller is a filler for salary to get the deal done and is also on an expiring contract. 

Option 3

Pelicans receive: Lauri Markkanen, Pat Patterson, Terance Mann

Bulls receive: Eric Bledsoe, Lou Williams, Romeo Langford, Aaron Nesmith, Lakers first round pick 2021, Cavaliers second round pick 2021

Celtics receive: Otto Porter Jr.

Clippers receive: Lonzo Ball

The LA Clippers are the most recent team to have shown interest in Ball, as they approach the trade deadline in need of a playmaking point guard. Patrick Beverley and Reggie Jackson haven’t been enough for them in that department this season. Again, Ball would have to transition back to more of the traditional point guard position, but with a coach like Ty Lue and talent like Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and others around him, the position switch should be smoother. 

New Orleans comes out of this deal with a spacing big in Lauri Markkanen, a player many believe to be a perfect fit with Zion on the offensive side of the ball. They also end up with Pat Patterson, a veteran forward and Terance Mann, a long, young, energy-bringing shooting guard that can help the Pelicans bench unit defensively. Given the addition of Patterson, New Orleans may try to move off Willy Hernangomez via trade or waving his contract. 

In Boston, there’s been a gargantuan void left by the absence of Gordon Hayward, leaving the Celtics in dire need of another score-first player alongside Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Kemba Walker isn’t what he once was, and the bench unit is severely lacking. While Porter Jr. shouldn’t be the first option at the deadline for Boston, they need to do something if they’re going to be a true playoff and championship threat this season. 

Porter Jr. isn’t a guaranteed fix for the problems facing Boston, as injuries have plagued him the last three years of his career. But if the Celtics are truly as desperate as they have looked at times this season, the move is worth it. Plus, if it proves successful, Danny Ainge can bring Porter Jr. back at a fraction of the price he’s currently being paid. 

The Chicago Bulls are the team that gets this deal done. Not only do they send two expiring contracts in Markkanen and Porter Jr. out of town, they bring in two veteran guards they can use or ditch pretty quickly. For Williams and Bledsoe, it’s been made apparent that the best years of their careers are behind them. In Chicago, they’re freed from their current situations where they’re clearly unhappy and can finish out the year with a young team on the fringe of the playoffs. Or they sit out Trevor Ariza and/or Andre Iguodala style. 

The Bulls also take these salary dumps in order to pile up on draft picks and young talent to surround Coby White and Zach Lavine. Nesmith and Langford have both shown flashes of being contributors with Boston thus far in their careers. If Langford can stay healthy and Nesmith can play regular minutes, the pair may be able to play significant roles on a young team like the Bulls. 

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