Lonzo Ball might be on his way to a third NBA team soon. Shams Charania reports the New Orleans Pelicans have received trade calls about Ball (along with teammate J.J. Redick) and are open to sending out the former No. 2 overall pick. Per The Athletic:
"A team that is expected to be prominent in the trade market picture, rival teams expect: The New Orleans Pelicans. The franchise is off to an uneven 5-10 start to the season. New Orleans has been receiving calls about the availability of Lonzo Ball and JJ Redick and has shown an openness to discussing trades around both with interested teams, sources tell The Athletic. A move would create a clearer pathway for young guards Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kira Lewis in the Pelicans’ rotation."
Ball came into the league as a rather divisive prospect and remains one now as a fourth-year veteran. His passing is excellent in the open floor and there aren't many point guards that can defend better than this Ball brother. But his shot comes and goes in an extreme manner; after starting his career with two straight seasons shooting less than 33 percent from deep, Ball shot 37 percent from 3-point land during the abbreviated 2019-20 season. On 6.3 attempts per game, no less. No argument can be made otherwise: Ball was a good shooter last year.
That is not the case this season. Ball is only shooting 29 percent from deep on 7.2 attempts per game. Overall, the first 12 games of the 2020-21 season has brought Ball's worst statistical output to date as he and his teammates attempt to adjust to Stan Van Gundy's offense, with Ball averaging only 12 points, four assists, and three rebounds per game.
The new Pelicans offensive system under Van Gundy is not exactly suited to Ball's strengths. He thrives in a run-and-gun offense where his shooting woes won't make as much of an impact. This year has shown he still has a ways to go with his shot, and when defenses can basically ignore him, it's tough for Ball to positively impact the game. Still, he's only 23-years-old and on an expiring contract. There will be a few teams willing to take a flier on a former lottery pick, and Ball does come with his benefits. Here are some teams that might dial up the Pelicans.
New York Knicks
Well, well. The Knicks have a chance to get a Ball brother after all following two missed opportunities in the 2017 and 2020 NBA drafts. He fills a need, too. While Ball's shooting wouldn't mesh well with Julius Randle and R.J. Barrett, the Knicks desperately need a true point guard. Tom Thibodeau refuses to start Immanuel Quickley and he's more of a scorer anyway. The Frankie Smokes experiment is dead. Lineups that feature Elfrid Payton do not do well at all. Ball would fit in very well with Thibodeau's defense-first mentality and would automatically become the team's best passer by a long shot.
With how his shooting has gone this year, Ball is just a supercharged version of Payton, really. But the Knicks are also loaded with failed lottery picks that might interest the Pelicans as a swap of reclamation projects. He fits the current roster makeup well. The Knicks love to be relevant. It's a perfect match, even if this particular Knicks front office probably won't be overpaying to make it happen.
Yes. Do it! Make Charlotte the epicenter of all Ball-related content for the next 10 years. The content machine must be fed, and nothing would accomplish that more quickly than getting LaVar Ball's kids on the same team.
Entertainment factor aside, the Hornets might not spring for Ball because they already have a bunch of decent guards. Terry Rozier is off the table, but on the other hand, Charlotte might be wise to capitalize upon Devonte' Graham's explosion last year. Graham averaged 18 points per game in 2019-20, coming out of nowhere to give Charlotte a solid scoring backcourt alongside Rozier. He has not reached anywhere near that level this year, scoring all of 13 points per game while shooting 33 percent from deep and only 34 percent from the field overall. The Pelicans might need something else to entice them, like Malik Monk, which is a tougher sell for Charlotte.
But if they did send out Graham and Monk, acquiring Lonzo would give them a defensive-minded guard in the backcourt and make the pecking order of scorers a bit clearer. If it works out, they have a Ball Brother Backcourt made for primetime television (which has been severely lacking in Charlotte over the last decade) and a more balanced team. If it doesn't, Graham doesn't look like a building block for the future given his poor play and terrible fit next to LaMelo, and they don't owe Lonzo anything. You know Michael Jordan would love it.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is growing into the star he was pegged as early in his career now that the Thunder are his team and his team alone. But he proved he can thrive as an off-ball creator last season alongside Chris Paul and Dennis Schroeder. Ball would give the team a better defensive presence and would take the tougher assignments so SGA can expend more energy offensively. Ball would also be both fun and good running the open floor with all the athletes OKC has drafted over the years. Most importantly, the Thunder have, give or take, a billion first-round picks over the next seven years. Burning one to acquire Ball and seeing what he's got isn't a terrible idea, and they may be the only team willing to give up that kind of capital for him.
San Antonio Spurs
No better place for Ball to rehabilitate his jump shot than the San Antonio School For Guards That Can't Shoot. The Spurs are stuck in between building for the future and competing right now, and aren't doing so very successfully. They sit at 9-8 and in ninth place in a Western Conference that does not look like it will be getting easier anytime soon. San Antonio could convince the Pelicans to take Derrick White in exchange for Ball. While White has been a fun story for the Spurs, he can't pass like Ball and is only marginally better as a shooter. San Antonio could also use this opportunity to offload a veteran like Rudy Gay if that's what the Pelicans are more interested in.
Ball would pair with Dejonte Murray to become one of the best defensive backcourts in the NBA and give San Antonio a flair like they've never had before. If he works out, he becomes a foundational cornerstone for a franchise still searching for those kinds of players as they look past the dwindling lifespan of the Gregg Popovich era.