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Lonzo Ball Trade Rumors: Pelicans Open to Deal If Offer Is 'Strong Enough'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 24, 2021

In this photo taken Saturday Jan. 4, 2020, is New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings in Sacramento, Calif. The Pelicans won 117-115. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

The New Orleans Pelicans might be willing to trade Lonzo Ball before Thursday's deadline "if the offer is strong enough," according to ESPN's Zach Lowe.

Ball is averaging 14.2 points and 5.6 assists while setting career highs in field-goal percentage (42.5) and three-point percentage (38.5). However, he's due to become a restricted free agent in the offseason, leading many to wonder whether the Pelicans could deal him now.

Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer reported March 1 that "you'd be hard-pressed to find a team New Orleans hasn't phoned to gauge interest in Ball, JJ Redick and Eric Bledsoe."

While the Pelicans have explored the possibility of a Ball trade, it doesn't appear they're desperate to offload him. Fischer followed up Monday to report the Pels "do not appear as motivated to move Ball as they once did."

That matches up with a report from The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor on Sunday: "There's skepticism around the league that the Pelicans will move [Ball] ahead of the deadline, but that won’t stop teams from trying."

One can easily envision the 23-year-old becoming a part of New Orleans' long-term foundation alongside Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson.

Giving him a big extension would also limit the franchise's flexibility going forward. According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, Ball is hopeful of collecting $20 million annually, and that doesn't seem like an unattainable figure for him in restricted free agency.

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For the Pelicans, Ball is clearly not on Williamson's level, and he hasn't enjoyed the kind of breakout that preceded Brandon Ingram signing his five-year, $158.3 million max extension. New Orleans' 19-24 record isn't a great signal of what a continued future with Ball, Ingram and Williamson together would look like going forward.

That makes it difficult to justify reflexively matching any offer sheet he receives this offseason, so dealing him before Thursday would be the smarter decision under the right circumstances.

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