Lonzo Ball Trade Rumors: Pelicans 'Willing' to Deal PG, JJ Redick, Eric Bledsoe

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 16, 2021

New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball (2) moves the ball down court in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns in New Orleans, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

The New Orleans Pelicans could look to move Lonzo Ball, JJ Redick and Eric Bledsoe before the NBA's March 25 trade deadline, according to ESPN's Tim Bontemps.

Bontemps spoke to a Western Conference scout who said the Pelicans are "willing to move on from all of those guys."

Jake Fischer of B/R reported March 1 that New Orleans was gauging the trade market for the three veterans. Fischer downplayed the likelihood that Ball would leave, and The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor reported March 8 the discussions around the 23-year-old point guard "have fizzled for now."

Bontemps wrote how the Pelicans have "almost two entirely different teams":

"One group is the young players whom Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin has either drafted (Zion Williamson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Kira Lewis Jr. and Jaxson Hayes) or paid (Brandon Ingram and Steven Adams) to be part of this team moving forward. The other includes the names that have been bandied about by executives around the league for weeks now: Ball, Bledsoe and Redick."

Redick will be a free agent in the offseason, and Bledsoe has one more year before his $19.4 million salary in 2022-23 becomes partially guaranteed on June 29, 2022. New Orleans is 17-22 and 11th in the Western Conference, so trading Redick or Bledsoe would make sense if Griffin wants to rethink the team's priorities.

Because of the reporting, a Ball trade wouldn't be totally unexpected but surprising all the same.

The 2017 first-round pick is enjoying a career year. He's averaging 14.3 points and 5.2 assists per game while setting personal highs for field-goal percentage (42.5) and three-point percentage (38.8). He seems to be forging a solid connection with Zion Williamson too.

The dilemma for Griffin is that Ball is due to become a restricted free agent, and unlike with Brandon Ingram, the situation isn't as straightforward as throwing a max deal his way.

Giving Ball a big extension would limit the Pelicans' flexibility, and they'd be investing in a player who's solid but hasn't performed at an All-Star level for any extended portion of his career. He hasn't enjoyed a breakout like one immediately preceding Ingram's big pay raise.

Dealing Ball would obviously be a sign the front office had reservations about him as a building block alongside Ingram and Williamson.