By the sound of it, New Orleans Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball may have played himself off of the trade block — or has he?
According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, “intel on what the Pelicans are going to do with Lonzo — is all over the place.” And while trade chatter surrounding the former No. 2 pick has seemingly quieted of late, it was not long ago that he was widely perceived as the “most available good player in the NBA.”
Could the Boston Celtics potentially offer up a deal enticing enough to pry Ball away from NOLA? NBC Boston Sports’ Chris Forsberg would certainly hope so.
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Celtics Urged to be ‘Aggressive’ in Pursuit of Lonzo Ball
While his availability may be in question, Ball’s development is certainly not. The UCLA product is averaging career-highs across the board offensively and growing into one of the more unlikely 3-and-D players in all of basketball. With the Cs somewhat undersized at the guard position and a $28.5 million traded player exception at their disposal, the 6-foot-6-inch Ball could prove to be an ideal addition at the deadline.
“Yes, I am very much so [a Lonzo Ball guy],” Forsberg admitted on Arbella Early Edition. “The Celtics, if they have one issue right now it’s that they have a bunch of small guards, a bunch of score-first guards.”
“Lonzo in his development in New Orleans has not only turned into a great three-point shooter, shooting nearly 40% from beyond the arc — taking like 7.5 per game. But with his playmaking and ability to defend multiple positions, he checks a lot of the boxes of what I think the Celtics need. So I’d really like to see them be aggressive.”
‘Roll the Dice’ on Ball & His Impending Free Agency?
Ball’s salary for the 2020-21 season checks in at $11 million. While not outrageous, the thought of giving up draft capital to inherit his contract without the certainty of retaining him beyond this season may be too much for Danny Ainge to stomach. Yet, when you compare Ball’s price tag (salary & trade compensation) to that of the readily linked to Harrison Barnes ($20 million salary), it quickly becomes far more reasonable — albeit still with its fair share of risk.
“The problem is, he’s a restricted free agent after this year. That means if another team comes in with a bigger offer, you might not retain him,” Forsberg stated. “So do you pay a lot to bring him in? I think you might want to roll the dice if you’re not willing to bite into the TPE on the size of a guy like Harrison Barnes.”
Over 35 games with Pelicans this season, Ball is averaging 14.1 ppg while shooting 41.8% from the field and 38.1% from beyond the arc, all of which are career-highs. While his assist average has dropped by nearly 2.0 per game as compared to last year, that has more to do with the Pels’ scheme and personnel rather than Ball. No one has ever questioned the point guard’s ability to distribute the ball, nor should they.
With that said, there is a legitimate question to be had of whether Boston should be willing to make a deal for a player who could turn out to be a mere three-month rental (or future sign-and-trade bait). Then again, if it further strengthens the Celtics’ title hopes, does it really matter?
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