The Pelicans are reportedly opening to signing-and-trading Lonzo Ball, who’ll be a restricted free agent this summer.
Which is another way of saying they’re not totally committed to keeping him.
Shams Charania of The Athletic:
New Orleans is unlikely to match a significant offer sheet on Ball, sources said.
The Bulls and Clippers are expected to be among the teams interested in him, according to sources.
Ball wants to convince teams he’s attainable. If they believe they can press the Pelicans into letting him walk with a big offer sheet, that’d get Ball even more money.
New Orleans projects to be about $35 million below the luxury-tax line without using the mid-level exception or re-signing Ball or Josh Hart (another restricted free agent). Trading the No. 10 pick for a veteran, who’d likely have a higher salary, could even further reduce flexibility.
So, the Pelicans might not be willing to pay to retain Ball and Hart.
It’d be disappointing to lose either solid young player for no return. But the good news for New Orleans: The Clippers – limited to the mid-level exception – would definitely need a sign-and-trade to get Ball, and the Bulls probably would, too.
Chicago could open significant cap space by letting Lauri Markkanen leave in restricted free agency and waiving and stretching Thaddeus Young, who’s contract is only partially guaranteed. But Young is a good player, and Markkanen still has upside. So, the Bulls will likely be limited to the mid-level exception or only slightly more in cap room – not enough to land Ball sans sign-and-trade.
Of course, other teams with cap space could also sign Ball to an offer sheet. The 23-year-old is a solid, albeit unconventional, point guard who has shown flashes of even better play.
For that reason, the Pelicans might just re-sign him themselves.
But as free agency approaches, there’s little certainty about Ball’s future in New Orleans.