Lonzo Ball Won't Sign Rookie Contract Extension with Pelicans, Rich Paul Says

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 21, 2020

New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball (2) during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. The Pelicans defeated the Pacers 124-117. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

The New Orleans Pelicans and Lonzo Ball failed to reach an agreement on a contract extension by Monday's deadline.

Rich Paul, who represents Ball, confirmed to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski that Ball will become a restricted free agent next offseason and that "both sides remain positive about the ability to move forward together."

The Pelicans took care of Brandon Ingram in November, agreeing to a five-year, $158 million max extension. That was a pretty straightforward situation since Ingram played his way into a big payday by making the All-Star team and winning Most Improved Player.

Ball hasn't compiled the same kind of resume just yet. The 23-year-old averaged 11.8 points, 7.0 assists and 6.1 rebounds while shooting 37.5 percent on three-pointers in 2019-20. He lived up to his reputation on defense, too, with his 2.0 defensive win shares the highest on the team, per Basketball Reference.

Ball's status as a restricted free agent provides the Pelicans with some cover in the event he has a breakout 2020-21 season. They'll have the ability match any offer he receives.

However, there's always the danger a team alienates a promising young player by lowballing him or generally failing to match whatever valuation he had set for himself.

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Ball could very well do the same as Ingram and earn himself a significant raise in the summer.

A full season with a healthy Zion Williamson would mean a lot of assist opportunities. Building a strong connection with Williamson will also give New Orleans an obvious incentive to bring him back, even if it means paying over the odds.

Should Ingram continue to improve, he'll command increased attention from opposing defenses, thus freeing up Ball a bit, too.

Ball could've taken the sure thing now, but it's not hard to see why he's betting on himself.