Lonzo Ball is a restricted free agent this summer, but the New Orleans Pelicans point guard is a legitimate sign-and-trade candidate, and the team won’t want to let him go without getting some compensation in return.
Here’s a look at four ideal trade scenarios the Pelicans could pull off if they can get Ball to sign an offer sheet. For purposes of this exercise, we’ll put in a framework of four years and $85 million for Ball’s new contract.
New Orleans Pelicans roll dice on Ben Simmons in Lonzo Ball trade to Philadelphia 76ers
- Pelicans get: Ben Simmons
- 76ers get: Lonzo Ball, Eric Bledsoe and 2022 first-round pick
The Pelicans would love to have a defensive stopper of Ben Simmons’ caliber, because Zion Williamson is a project on that end of the court, and no one else has Simmons’ blend of size, athleticism and versatility.
Giving Simmons a fresh start in New Orleans, playing next to such dynamic players in Zion and Brandon Ingram, would make the Pels an extremely compelling team to watch. They’d also still have their top-10 draft pick to spend in this scenario.
Philadelphia has plenty of shooters, but can’t have such a liability running its offense. Like Simmons, Ball had serious questions about his jump shot entering the NBA, but he’s actually put a lot of work in to make massive improvements.
Once thought to have a broken jumper, Ball has shot well above 37% from 3-point range over the past two seasons. He’s seen his free throw percentage jump from 41.7% as a second-year pro to 78.1% last season.
Getting a burly guard in Eric Bledsoe also gives the 76ers more toughness in their backcourt rotation, not to mention a mentor who’s something of a journeyman at this point and could help guide a relatively young position group in a way Simmons couldn’t before.
Lonzo Ball teams with Luka Doncic on Dallas Mavericks
- Pelicans get: Kristaps Porzingis, Jalen Brunson and 2024 first-round pick
- Mavericks get: Lonzo Ball
This may seem a little lopsided in the Pelicans’ favor, or you might be thinking, “Luka Doncic and Lonzo Ball wouldn’t fit together in Dallas.”
Think about it, though. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard basically play the same position for the Los Angeles Clippers, and no one was really questioning their fit together. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were similar players, yet made it work to win multiple championships on the Miami Heat.
The Mavs aren’t an obvious destination for Ball, nor is it a perfect fit with Doncic. However, we’re talking about two of the most high-IQ players and gifted young passers in the NBA, and because Ball has improved so much playing off the ball as a 3-point shooter, he could thrive with Doncic as the lead guard.
More importantly, Dallas needs a facilitator for when Doncic is getting rest. Ball is precisely that, and is also a solid perimeter defender. The NBA is loaded with good point guards, and Ball has a better chance of staying in front of them than Doncic does.
As for the Pels’ side of this, for them to agree, they’d be fully committing to “Point Zion” — and that may not be a bad thing. Imagine the size advantage New Orleans could have with a lineup of Steven Adams and Kristaps Porzingis up front, Zion at point forward, and Ingram on the wing, too.
New York Knicks leverage draft capital into Lonzo Ball trade
- Pelicans get: 19th and 32nd picks in 2021 NBA Draft, 2023 first-round pick
- Knicks get: Lonzo Ball
Since the New York Knicks have so many pending free agents, they might need a third team to get involved in order for the Pelicans to be comfortable sending Ball to play in Madison Square Garden. Nevertheless, this scenario would at least pique New Orleans’ interest.
It’s obvious what the appeal would be for Ball to go to New York. He could suit up alongside reigning Most Improved Player Julius Randle and RJ Barrett to lead a new era of Knicks basketball. The team would still have enough cap room to chase a max contract player as well.
Ball and Randle obviously have excellent work ethics, and have grown so much since they were teammates on the Los Angeles Lakers several years ago. Randle will probably be making a pitch for Ball to join the Knickerbockers this offseason.
New Orleans’ side of this trade is a little uncertain, but you never know how high that 2023 first-rounder could be. Plus, the Pelicans could probably push back and try to coax Immanuel Quickley in as part of the package.
Miami Heat land Lonzo Ball in blockbuster trade of young talent
- Pelicans get: Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson (sign-and-trade)
- Heat get: Lonzo Ball, 2022 first-round pick
The NBA playoff bubble was the perfect environment for the Miami Heat, who made a run all the way to the 2020 NBA Finals. Two of their key contributors were Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro, but the latter suffered a sophomore slump this past season, and Miami has some tough decisions to make with Robinson hitting restricted free agency.
Ball seems like a perfect fit in the Heat’s work-hard culture, and the team really needs another viable 3-point shooter who can also create chances for others. Jimmy Butler is a fine player, but his lack of outside shooting proficiency limits Miami’s offensive ceiling.
Getting Ball to mesh with such a versatile player as Butler and the unique skill set of Bam Adebayo wouldn’t be a problem. Parting with Herro hurts, because he has so much potential at age 21. However, you can’t really be certain about him, and at least in this scenario, the Heat would get something for Robinson leaving.
Robinson is one of the elite 3-point marksmen in the sport. He and Herro would give the Pels incredible upside on offense, especially when they’re sharing the court with Zion and Ingram.