The Chicago Bulls have been quiet approaching the March 25 trade deadline.
While trade rumors continue to buzz among fans, the only verbal interest the Bulls sources have leaked to the media has been an interest in New Orleans Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball.
Ball turned his game up a notch once his name was thrown into the rumor mill to the degree the Pelicans recently revealed their lack of interest in trading him.
However, everything comes with a price.
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Pelicans Hedge Interest in Ball
The Pelicans decided during the abridged offseason to solely build the future of the team around Zion Williamson and take a wait-and-see approach with several talented young players approaching the final year of their rookie contracts — including Ball.
That is why the Pelicans did not reach rookie contract extensions with Ball or Josh Hart, per Bleacher Report’s Josh Fischer.
Ball, playing in the final guaranteed year of his contract, has become a highly touted trade target approaching restricted free agency in 2021. And he’s elevated his game to prove his worth — whether it be with New Orleans or a new suitor.
After shooting just 32.1% on 112 three-point attempts in the first 15 games of the season, Ball converted 45.9% of his shots from deep — hitting 56 of 122 three-point tries — in 15 games in February. He averaged 16.5 points, 5.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds in that span.
Fischer wrote how Ball’s ascendant shooting performance could secure his future with the Pelicans as sources said there’s “little expectation” Ball will be moved before the trade deadline:
If his shooting can continue, Ball suddenly bills as an ideal floor general next to the Pelicans’ two All-Stars. He shows little ego, is eager to throw hit-ahead passes in transition and can space the floor once he’s off the ball in the half court—all while boasting defensive positional versatility.
“If you just let Lonzo be Lonzo and Zion be Zion, they’re gonna team up for 8, 10 points a night,” said one NBA coach. For now, it appears there’s little expectation New Orleans will move Ball before the March 25 trade deadline, sources said.
Pelicans officials have been impressed with how Ball responded to the trade chatter and cite his three-game break during New Orleans’ six-game road trip in mid-January as the springboard for his recent success. Ball was able to rest the achy knees that have given him trouble throughout his young career, while several New Orleans executives and coaches pulled him aside for individual conversations. He further tweaked his already-refined shooting mechanics after film study, and the Pelicans are generally optimistic about how he has accepted his secondary role. Many now view the point guard as New Orleans’ third-best player.
Bulls Have Assets to Move
While Fischer’s report does remove much of the kindling of a potential trade with New Orleans, the Bulls do have plenty of valuable assets that could push an offer the Pelicans couldn’t refuse.
NBA general managers unanimously named Thad Young the player, other than Bradley Beal, who could “change the landscape” of the playoff race if traded to a contender. Young could add to an already burgeoning Pelicans frontcourt of Williams and Brandon Ingram, however, the Bulls don’t have much to offer in replacement point guards for Ball.
Chicago continues to evaluate its talent in the first year of the Arturas Karnisovas regime and likely will leak more trade interest closer to the deadline.
But one certainty is the Bulls are garnering interest across the league and eventually the new front office will have to make a move to build a roster of its own.
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