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Chicago Bulls could acquire Lonzo Ball in complicated three-team trade

The Chicago Bulls have been linked to restricted free agent Lonzo Ball more than any other team with the market set to open up within the matter of hours.

There’s a chance that Chicago can sign the New Orleans Pelicans star point guard outright using cap room. Said contract could come in at $80-plus million over four seasons. This would require Bulls general manager Marc Eversley playing salary cap gymnastics by renouncing the rights of restricted free agent Lauri Markkanen while trading Thaddeus Young to another team into cap space.

However, there’s another scenario in place that suggests Chicago could pull off a sign-and-trade for Ball. According to John Hollinger of The Athletic, that might come in the form of a three-deal deal involving the Charlotte Hornets.

“One late, hot item I’ve heard is that a double sign-and-trade may be in the works that sends Ball out (possibly to Chicago, NOT to Charlotte as I had earlier been led to believe) and Devonte’ Graham back to New Orleans. It could end up a very complex transaction,” Hollinger reported on Monday.

First off, sign-and-trade deals can’t involve three teams. Instead, for another squad to get involved, it would technically be a separate deal. We’re seeing this come to the forefront with rumors suggesting that All-Star guard Kyle Lowry could be headed from the Toronto Raptors to the Miami Heat with the former then moving Goran Dragic to the Dallas Mavericks in a separate trade.

Let’s make it a bit less convoluted, shall we?

How would a Lonzo Ball sign-and-trade to the Chicago Bulls look?

chicago bulls trade for lonzo ball
Feb 10, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball (2) dribbles the ball against the Chicago Bulls during the third quarter at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Assuming Ball is looking at $20 million annually, the salaries would have to pretty much match as it relates to contracts heading back to New Orleans. At least, initially. It would then depend on the assets the Charlotte Hornets would want from the Pelicans in another sign-and-trade that sends Devonte’ Graham to Nola.

Financially, the Chicago Bulls could offer up the aforementioned Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky to make this work. Both actually might be seen as key additions for Charlotte if the team were to pull off another trade that sends Graham to the Pelicans. In particular, Charlotte needs some more frontcourt depth to go with the trio of LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier and rookie James Bougknight in the backcourt.

There’s also a scenario in place that suggests other assets could be headed back from New Orleans to Charlotte in the Graham trade. Perhaps, Charlotte will have interest in recently-acquired Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas. That’s a glaring need for Michael Jordan’s squad.

The backdrop here is also rather obvious when it comes to the Chicago Bulls. They want to find an upper-echelon point guard to team up with All-Stars Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic. Given his performance for the Pelicans last season, Ball would obviously provide that.

As for New Orleans, acquiring Graham could go a long way in helping Zion Williamson remain somewhat happy after rumors persisted that his camp is not feeling the direction of the organization. Front office head David Griffin is attempting to add proven starter-caliber player to the mix with Mt. Zion.