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Zion Williamson on Lonzo Ball's Free Agency: 'I Hope He Stays' with Pelicans

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVMay 18, 2021

AP Photo/Brandon Dill

Zion Williamson wants to keep the New Orleans Pelicans' young core together even though Lonzo Ball is a restricted free agent this offseason.

"It'd be dope," Williamson said of Ball staying with the Pelicans and playing alongside him and Brandon Ingram, per Jacob Rude of USA Today's Lonzo Wire. "I think me, Brandon and Zo, the three of us, we have a great relationship. I really would want Zo to come back and he knows that. But like I said, the reality of the situation is, Zo's a grown man so he's going to make the decision that's best for him. The only thing I can say is I hope he stays."

While New Orleans struggled with consistency on the way to a 31-41 record, it had success when Williamson and Ball were on the court together.

According to NBA.com, lineups that featured the pair finished the season with a plus-3.8 net rating. Lineups featuring Ball and Ingram were a plus-2.4, and the Pelicans had a plus-4.3 net rating with all three on the floor together.

Still, Ball figures to generate plenty of interest this offseason.

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He is only 23 years old and shot a career-best 37.8 percent from three-point range during the 2020-21 campaign. His outside shot was among the biggest concerns when he entered the league as the No. 2 overall pick of the 2017 NBA draft, and it is now a relative strength to go along with his impressive passing.

The UCLA product also averaged a career-high 14.6 points per game and was more aggressive while seeking out his shot this season.

Rude noted the Pelicans will likely have to dip into luxury-tax territory for the first time in franchise history if they plan on keeping Ball and restricted free agent Josh Hart, but the former looks like a key building block for a team looking to build a long-term winner.

Plus, the most important building block wants him to stay.

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