Bulls, Pelicans Discussed Lauri-Lonzo Swap: Report

Lonzo Ball

Getty Lonzo Ball drives towards the basket in a February 9 game against the Houston Rockets.

No team has been talked about more as a potential Lonzo Ball trade destination than the Chicago Bulls, who are in dire need of an upgrade at point guard.

And with the NBA’s trade deadline just three days away, reports continue to surface regarding just what kind of packages have been discussed and offered to the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reported on Sunday that the Bulls at one point had offered veteran Tomas Satoransky and second-round picks for Ball, but the Pelicans declined.

Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report followed that up with a report on Monday saying that Chicago and New Orleans have discussed a player-for-player swap involving forward Lauri Markkanen:

There were early discussions centered around swapping Lauri Markkanen for Ball, sources said, yet those talks have not yet seemed close to substantial.

Ball is averaging 14.2 points, 5.6 assists, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game.

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Lauri for Lonzo?

When Lauri Markkanen and the Chicago Bulls failed to come to terms on a rookie-scale extension by the deadline in December, the NBA’s rumor mill picked up a new narrative to spin on.

The 23-year old is headed for restricted free agency, similar to the New Orleans Pelicans’ point guard, and it’s largely unclear what kind of value he’d hold at both the deadline and on his next deal.

Markkanen’s averaging 18.2 points and 5.9 rebounds this season, over 21 games played. His struggles to remain healthy have continued into his fourth year, with a shoulder contusion having sidelined him 13 games.

Still, when he is on the court, there’s little question about his capability as both a scorer and rebound threat. But would the Pelicans be interested in swapping out one pending restricted free agent for another?

They’ve also got a cluttered frontcourt rotation. Between Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson, it’s hard to determine what a role in New Orleans would look like for Markkanen.

Pelicans Want More for Ball

The timing and nature of Fischer’s reporting almost cements the fact that these talks went nowhere fast.

To the surprise of none, New Orleans want a bigger offer for one of the league’s most desired young talents. ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported along those lines on Monday morning in his trade deadline primer:

The Pelicans’ appetite for moving Ball ahead of his restricted free agency this summer has been murkier since Ball’s surge in the past month, but the sense among league sources is they would be open to a deal if the offer is strong enough.

When it comes to further assets, the Bulls do have all of their future first-round picks. But that seems like an overpay for the right to potentially overpay Ball again in restricted free agency.

Would the Pelicans be interested in veteran forward Thaddeus Young instead, who’s spent the majority of this season coming off of the bench for Chicago?

Prior to being promoted to the starting lineup, he was averaging 12.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.3 steals in the second unit. His $14-million salary for next year is non-guaranteed.

The Bulls have been reluctant to engage teams on trades involving the 32-year old as of late, but if it meant getting Ball, maybe they’d view things differently.

Regardless, if the Chicago Bulls want to land Lonzo Ball, their potential point guard for the future, it’s going to take more than the semi-expiring contract of Lauri Markkanen.

There are three days until the NBA trade deadline.

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