Lonzo Ball Excited to Play with Zion Williamson, Pelicans After Lakers Trade

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJuly 14, 2019

Los Angeles Lakers' Lonzo Ball (2) during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Lonzo Ball was one of the key additions for the New Orleans Pelicans this summer in what has been a transformative offseason for the franchise, which also added Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and a whole slew of future draft assets after dealing Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers.

It's an exciting time in New Orleans after the team also drafted Duke superstar Zion Williamson with the top overall pick, and Ball expressed excitement about his new situation after two years with the Lakers.

"I know New Orleans is excited to have me, and I'm excited to get started," he told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. "Moving to a new team, a new situation, a new organization, new coaches, new everything—it's a refresh, getting back to playing basketball how I know I can play."

He also spoke about playing with Williamson.

"Man, I've never seen somebody that size move like him," Ball noted. "He's only 19, right? He's definitely a freak. I've never seen nothing like it. ... Honestly, you just got to run the lane, set screens and roll. With his game and with him getting a full head of steam, it's going to be very tough to stop him. So I think we play fast and get out on the break as soon as possible."

As for being traded to New Orleans, Ball said he was excited by the change of scenery and understood the move from the Lakers' perspective:

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"I was kind of excited, honestly. I kind of figured someone was going to get moved soon enough. I knew Anthony Davis wanted to come bad. Anytime you can get a guy like that, you are going to have to do what you have to do to get him. So I was kind of already just waiting for it, honestly, and I was happy to go with two guys I am comfortable with in [Ingram] and [Hart]. I am excited to see what we can do.

"I tell people when I was a rookie, I probably would have been sad. Just being from L.A., having my whole family here and wanting to be a Laker. But being in the league for two years, knowing it's a business, as long you get to play, that's a blessing in itself. I'm excited to get started."

It was the first move in a wild summer for New Orleans. Alongside drafting Williamson and acquiring Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker—and adding Ball, Ingram and Hart in the Davis trade—the Pelicans also signed JJ Redick and Derrick Favors, giving Jrue Holiday some veteran help immediately while the younger players develop.

In the loaded Western Conference—where only the rebuilding Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder and perpetually bad Phoenix Suns don't appear to be in the postseason conversation—expecting the new-look Pelicans to make a playoff run might be a touch ambitious.

But if players like Ball and Ingram take a step forward in the 2019-20 season—and if Williamson is ready to make a major impact as a rookie—it isn't outside the realm of possibility that New Orleans could secure a seven or eight seed.

Ball's continued development will be a huge storyline for the Pelicans this season. Two major factors have hampered him to this point in his career: shooting and injuries.

The 21-year-old has shot just 38.0 percent from the field, 31.5 percent from three and 43.7 percent from the charity stripe in his first two seasons. Given his unorthodox shooting motion, it's an issue that could persist throughout his career.

While Ball is a menace in transition as a playmaker and has proved to be a good defender given his 6'6" size at the point guard position, his inability to consistently create his own shot or hit from deep at even league average has limited him in the half court.

Injuries have also hurt his development, as Ball has played in just 99 of a possible 164 games over his first two seasons. Staying on the court will be just as important as improving his shooting, even if the Pelicans have a lot of depth in the backcourt.

In Ball, Ingram and Williamson, the Pelicans have one of the more intriguing young cores in basketball. How they fit on the court and perform with one another remains uncertain.