Ball was involved in trade discussions with several teams before last month’s trade deadline, with the LA Clippers, Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets and Atlanta Hawks among the teams showing interest, sources said. Some executives came away from those talks with the belief that Ball might be available in a sign-and-trade in the offseason as a restricted free agent.
The Pelicans have expressed interest in keeping Ball. When extension talks broke down before the season, the front office pointed toward Ingram, who also didn't reach an extension with the Pelicans going into the final year of his rookie contract. He subsequently had a breakout season that led to a Most Improved Player Award and then a maximum contract. The idea was that if Ball likewise had a strong season, the organization would follow suit.
Teams in need of a point guard are preparing for Ball in free agency even with the Pelicans owning matching rights. New Orleans has only $91 million on its books for next season, giving the team cap space and plenty of room under the tax line. But Josh Hart, who has also been proficient playing alongside Williamson, will also be a restricted free agent -- and likely will be a more cost-efficient option than Ball. Attempts to move Eric Bledsoe, who is owed $18 million next year, haven't been successful.
"Unless they can trade Bledsoe, they will probably be hard-pressed to re-sign both Lonzo and Hart," a rival league executive said. "They don't pay the [luxury] tax."
Though the Knicks made a very light push for Ball at the March 25 trade deadline, the Bulls did a lot more of the talking with Pelicans general manager David Griffin. If Ball were to leave, Chicago would be the Knicks’ top competitor, according to sources.
Because of luxury-tax concerns, the feeling around the league is the Pelicans may pass on matching any offer over $20 million per season with rookie lottery-pick point guard Kira Lewis and combo guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker in the fold. The Post reported Ball has the Knicks on his radar. His father, LaVar, had hoped Ball’s youngest brother, LaMelo, would be drafted by the Knicks last November — wanting him to play amid the bright lights of New York City.
Oleh Kosel: Brian Windhorst on The Jump says it's unclear if Pelicans can afford to keep Lonzo Ball due to other financial commitments but to watch Knicks, Heat and Raptors. Zo, Schroder & Lowry are "to be the subject of a bidding war amongst the teams that need a point guard this summer."
KC Johnson: On the Lonzo Ball front, Bulls would have to waive Thad Young and/or Tomas Satoransky to prepare offer sheet for him this summer. Sign-and-trade talks also in play. But again: It's clear AKME has targeted upgrading PG as a need.
Despite LaVar’s bold remarks on Los Angeles radio, The Post has learned Lonzo doesn’t feel the same way about being dealt Thursday. The Pelicans have had a disappointing season — 18-24, in 11th place in the West. However, Ball’s preference is to fight for a playoff berth with New Orleans and put his focus on his first free agency, one NBA source said.
The Post reported last week Ball would have the Knicks high on his free-agent radar. As far as putting together a package now for Ball, league sources believes the Knicks would tend to be reluctant knowing they can have Ball for free this summer.
ESPN’s cap guru Bobby Marks told The Post he doubts the Pelicans would match an offer sheet that starts higher than $18 million. The max starting number is $28 million. The Post has learned the Knicks, with plenty of cap room, would be heavily on Ball’s radar as a restricted free agent.
May 12, 2021 | 9:18 pm EDT Update
Ryan Ward: Frank Vogel on if LeBron will play in the final two games: “There’s a chance, but we’re literally taking this thing one day at a time.”
Tim Reynolds: Washington’s Davis Bertans just made the NBA’s 26,375th 3-pointer of the season. And with that, the NBA’s record for 3-pointers per game has officially fallen — for the ninth consecutive season.
Marv Albert and Reggie Miller call Heat-76ers on Thursday night. It could possibly be the final regular season game for the legendary Albert, who turns 80 next month; Albert and Turner haven’t said if he will return next season.