After all the reporting and rumors that circled the Chicago Bulls and Lonzo Ball, the point guard walked out of Thursday’s trade deadline still with the New Orleans Pelicans.
All of the Atlanta Hawks, Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks, and LA Clippers were also rumored at one point or another to have held interest in a deal for the point guard.
Ball is averaging 14.2 points, 5.6 assists, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game this season.
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Ball Is Happy in New Orleans, For Now
When speaking with reporters on Wednesday (via ESPN), Ball made it clear that he was happy with Thursday’s outcome:
I’m happy to be here. It was a long day. But overall, I ended up not getting moved and staying here, where I wanted to be. So it all worked out how it was supposed to.
A long day is right, given that things may have come down to the 3PM buzzer on Thursday. Chicago was reportedly still in pursuit of Ball as of that morning, even after landing big fish Nikola Vucevic in a blockbuster deal:
Here's the deal: The Bulls land Nikola Vucevic and Al Farouq Aminu for Otto Porter, Wendell Carter Jr., and two first-round picks. Huge addition for Chicago, who remains in pursuit of Lonzo Ball. The Magic are moving toward a rebuild now with Aaron Gordon deal on deck.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 25, 2021
They weren’t the only team in on a potential trade for the point guard, but likely the most serious of suitors. Now, he’ll finish out the season with the Pelicans, who are currently 12th in the Western Conference.
Despite that, Ball remains optimistic about New Orleans future. Largely, because of their young core:
I’m just comfortable here. I also love playing with [Zion Williamson] and [Brandon Ingram]. We have a lot of young guys. I think we can be good in the time coming.
At 23, 20, and 23 years old respectively, there’s no doubt that time is on this group’s side. But Ball will be a restricted free agent this summer, with the other two locked into deals through 2022.
The two sides were unable to reach an agreement on an extension back at the December deadline, so he’ll entertain offers from multiple teams now come the offseason.
The expectation is that Ball will command a deal somewhere in the $18-$22 million range annually.
The Bulls Aren’t Done Chasing Ball
The Chicago Bulls may have not landed Ball at the deadline, but don’t expect their pursuit of the 23-year old to end anytime soon. A future partnership is nowhere near “off the table.”
On the contrary, they may be better suited to make a run at him in the offseason, given that they didn’t use any assets to acquire him prematurely.
His aforementioned free agency only means that the New Orleans Pelicans can match any offer sheet he signs from another team. Expect the Bulls to be among those teams preparing offer sheets for the point guard.
Chicago walked out of the deadline a better team, undoubtedly. But their longterm answer at point guard remains in question, with Tomas Satoransky currently slated to start for the remainder of this season.
Unless Coby White returns from his neck injury and wows the team over the season’s final 26 games, the front office will be all in on not just Ball, but any potential upgrade at the position this summer.
Consider this saga far from over.