The New Orleans Pelicans are in year two of the post-Anthony Davis era. While teams who trade superstars aren’t expected to be good immediately, the Pelicans set themselves up for a bright future and present. Unfortunately, they have not lived up to the expectations they have set for themselves, which involves a push for the playoffs. The Pelicans currently are 5-10, the fourth-worst record in the league.
They are in a very tricky spot right now. On one hand, they have an All-Star in Brandon Ingram and an emerging one in Zion Williamson. They are still improving and together could be the foundation for a contender in the future. At the same time, the pieces they put around them don’t fit very well. They currently rank 27th in three-point percentage and 24th in net rating. If things don’t improve soon, the Pelicans might have to take a step back and make some changes.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Pelicans are listening to offers for Lonzo Ball and JJ Redick. After a promising 2019-20 season with great moments in the limited time he had with Williamson, Ball has more or less stagnated in his development. Ball is entering restricted free agency this summer and has a $14 million qualifying offer. Both parties are at a crossroads and if the Pelicans don’t feel comfortable paying him what his market commands, a trade may be the way to go.
Here are the teams that make the most sense to trade for Ball by the trade deadline:
The Suns trading for Chris Paul was an all-in move made with the goal of competing for a championship. As amazing and timeless as Paul’s play still is, the soon-to-be 36-year-old realistically only has a 2-3 window with Phoenix. The Suns don’t seem to have an answer at point guard for the post-Paul era, especially after passing on potential Rookie of the Year candidate Tyrese Halliburton in the 2020 draft.
Lonzo Ball could both be the Suns’ point guard of the future while being a vital contributor now. Not only that, but Ball would get to play next to the point god himself. That experience alone could make the difference between Ball being a good starter in his career to an All-Star worthy of being a former No. 2 overall selection.
Because the 2022 first-round pick the Suns traded to Oklahoma City for Paul is protected through 2025, the earliest first-round pick they can trade right now is their 2027 pick. That should satisfy the Pelicans’ front office who received an equally late first-round pick from the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Jrue Holiday. As far as salary matching goes, the Suns only need to send back $6.3 million out. Jae Crowder or Dario Saric straight-up works. They could also send back Jalen Smith, whose shooting and shot-blocking could make him an excellent fit next to Zion Williamson.
After finally trading James Harden, the Rockets are in asset-accumulation mode. After acquiring three first-round picks from the Nets and one from the Wizards, they’re owed more future first-round picks than they owe. They could be looking to part with some of them for foundational players. Although they have John Wall starting at point guard, the 30-year-old isn’t in the Rockets’ long-term plans and could use Lonzo Ball as their potential point guard of the future.
If the Rockets are looking to trade a future first-round pick for Ball, they could trade one with the expiring contract of Dante Exum for him. If the Pelicans are looking for a starter, perhaps Victor Oladipo can be discussed, provided he’s open to a long-term future with the Pelicans. With Christian Wood currently their only foundational piece going forward, Ball would be a great partner for him.
New York Knicks
The Knicks are currently enjoying a fun start to their season under new head coach Tom Thibodeau. RJ Barrett has improved and Julius Randle is looking like an All-Star. They also might have their point guard of the future in Immanuel Quickley, who is making the floater look easy and is already foul-bating like a 10-year-veteran. Besides Quickley, the Knicks are thin at above-average point guard play, having to defer to players such as Randle and Barrett to facilitate the offense out of position.
Lonzo Ball could shine in New York under Thibodeau. Trading for him is easy since they could absorb his $11 million salary with the $17 million in cap space they currently have. They could offer a future first-round pick such as their own or the ones they’re owed from the Mavericks as an incentive.
If they acquire Ball, his $27.5 million cap hold would cut the Knicks more than $60 million in 2021 cap space in half. Re-signing him could require $15-20 million annually, which the Knicks should be prepared to offer if they do trade assets for him.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers point guard situation is a timeshare between Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Patrick Beverley bringing the ball up and down the court and facilitating the offense. They could really use a true point guard like Ball who can be their primary ball-handler, allowing their other starters to play more off-ball. They cannot offer a first-round pick this season but they have almost all of their own second-round picks as well as four additional ones from the Pistons they received with Luke Kennard.
When it comes to salary matching, the Clippers need to send equal or more salary as Ball’s $11 million since they’re just $538,605 below the apron. Lou Williams ($8 million), Mfiondu Kabengele ($2.1 million), and Terrance Mann ($1.5 million) works and keep the Clippers below the hard cap. Still, the market would have to be pretty down on Ball for Mann and multiple second-round picks to be the best offer out there.
It seems like the Sixers were close to trading Ben Simmons for James Harden. If they do end up trading Simmons for the next available star, such as Bradley Beal, they will need a new starting point guard. Lonzo Ball could be a good theoretical replacement for Simmons.
The Pelicans could look to be a third team getting involved in such a deal and receive a future draft pick. They could also potentially receive a young player from the Sixers such as Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, or Shake Milton as well.