Lonzo Ball Trade Rumors: Bulls, Hawks Pursuing Star; ATL's Cam Reddish Involved

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 21, 2021

New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball (2) passes in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers in New Orleans, Friday, March 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

The Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks are both interested in trading for New Orleans Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball, per Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer, who also noted that talks with the Hawks have included Atlanta forward Cam Reddish.

"There's skepticism around the league that the Pelicans will move Lonzo Ball ahead of the deadline, but that won't stop teams from trying. League sources say the Bulls and Hawks are both in pursuit. Chicago has offered Tomas Satoransky and second-round picks, but New Orleans is asking for at least one good first-round pick or a young player. Talks with Atlanta have revolved around Cam Reddish.

"New Orleans's leverage is dinged by the fact both Chicago and Atlanta will have cap space to make an expensive offer to Ball this offseason. If the Pelicans wait, they might be able to sign-and-trade Ball to a wider list of teams during the offseason. But they'd also be at risk of losing him for nothing or be forced to match a contract more pricey than they'd like."

Ball, 23, is averaging 14.2 points, 5.6 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game for the struggling 17-24 Pelicans, who are 6-12 in their last 18 matchups. He recently notched a career-high 17 assists against the Portland Trail Blazers last Tuesday.

The former UCLA star, who was selected second overall in the 2017 NBA draft, played two years for the Los Angeles Lakers before he was sent to the Pels as part of the Anthony Davis deal. He's in the middle of his second season with New Orleans and is set to become a restricted free agent this summer.

O'Connor gave his takes on Ball's fit on the Bulls or Hawks while also noting the Pelicans' current situation.

"Ball would be an excellent fit in Chicago or Atlanta alongside either team's one-time All-Star guard, Zach LaVine or Trae Young. Ball is a low-usage playmaker who makes quick decisions and could better balance each offense with his ability to facilitate or play off the ball. This season, Ball is averaging 14.2 points on 38.5 percent shooting from 3 with 5.6 assists and 4.2 rebounds. He's also playing the most consistent defense on a New Orleans team that can't get regular stops.

"The fact the Pelicans are even exploring trades involving Ball, who’s only 23 years old, speaks to the odd position the franchise is in. On paper, it makes sense to keep Ball's adaptable skill set. But it's hard to rationalize locking him into a large contract alongside Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram when this core is losing so many games."

The arrow is pointing up for the Bulls and Hawks franchises despite various struggles over the past five years. Chicago is a bit under .500 at 18-22, but that record is good enough for 10th in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls went 22-43 the year before.

The Hawks have caught fire under new head coach Nate McMillan, going 8-0 after parting ways with Lloyd Pierce. Atlanta has moved to 22-20 in the process, and that mark is good enough for fourth in the East.

With the advent of the new NBA play-in tournament, which includes the seventh through 10th-place teams in the East and West, more teams are alive to compete for a postseason spot. That could make more teams buyers rather than sellers at the deadline unless you're a team far removed from competing, a la the Houston Rockets.

The Pels are dangerously close to falling well out of the playoff picture discussion, as they sit 18-24 and 11th in the West. They are 2.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for 10th.

That could lead to a player like Ball getting traded, even if he has excelled for the Pels. New Orleans' future is committed around a two-man core of Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, and as O'Connor noted, signing Ball to a long-term deal at this juncture may not be the best move given how the team has done.