Even with the team’s focus still on squeezing into the Eastern Conference playoff picture, don’t doubt Arturas Karnisovas and company are keeping an eye on the upcoming free agency market.
Ball is averaging 14.5 points, 5.7 assists, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game.
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Revisiting the Lonzo Ball Sweepstakes
All of the Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, and Philadelphia 76ers were rumored with trade interest in Lonzo Ball ahead of the trade deadline.
But even though the New Orleans Pelicans didn’t sell on their 23-year old point guard, Marc Berman of the New York Post reported on Wednesday that they won’t be paying top dollar to keep him:
Because of the luxury tax concerns, the feeling around the league is the Pelicans may pass on matching any ofer over $20-million per season with rookie lottery-pick point guard Kira Lewis and combo guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker in the fold.
Ball will enter the offseason a restricted free agent, meaning a team like the Knicks with plenty of cap space could sign him to an offer sheet outside of the Pelicans’ price range.
But according to Berman, it was the Bulls, not New York, who were more aggressive in talks for Ball at the deadline. They remain a large (if not the largest) threat to land him this offseason:
Though the Knicks made a very light push for Ball at the March 25 trade deadline, the Bulls did a lot more of the talking with Pelicans general manager David Griffin. If Ball were to leave, Chicago would be the Knicks’ top competitor, according to sources.
Whether it be a sign-and-trade, or a lucrative offer sheet, expect the Chicago Bulls to remain all-in on Lonzo Ball as their top target come the offseason.
Updated Bulls Playoff Odds
The Chicago Bulls are now 22-31, the 10th seed in the East, and five games back of the eighth-seed New York Knicks.
They’ve lost three straight, with 12 of their 16 final games against teams with an above .500 record.
What was once a goal of playoffs, has pivoted to maintaining their play-in tournament eligibility. When the Bulls traded for big man Nikola Vucevic, any form of tanking became a non-negotiable.
Five Thirty Eight currently has a Chicago playoff berth at 10 percent likelihood.
That’s tied for the third-worst mark of all teams with over one percent odds.
Tankathon.com has the Bulls remaining schedule as the fourth-most difficult in the East, good for 10th in the entire NBA.
The Toronto Raptors, the biggest threat to Chicago’s play-in spot, have a 14 percent chance at making the playoffs, and the hardest remaining schedule in the East.
Regardless, for the Chicago Bulls, things are only going to get tougher down the stretch.