Despite the continual reporting tying him to the Chicago Bulls, point guard Lonzo Ball walked out of Thursday’s trade deadline still with the New Orleans Pelicans.
He’s set to enter the offseason as a restricted free agent, likely coming off of what is shaping up to be a career year. Ball is averaging 14.2 points, 5.6 assists, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.3 steals nightly.
Instead, the Bulls opted to cash in their draft assets (two first-round picks) for two-time All-Star Nikola Vucevic, in hopes that he and Zach LaVine could fuel them to the playoffs.
Is this a trade (or non-trade, rather) that will come back to haunt the Bulls?
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Chicago Still Needs a Point Guard
The Chicago Bulls refusal to pull the trigger on a deal for any point guard, not just Ball, implies a somewhat content state with their current guard rotation. At least for the remainder of this year.
Tomas Satoransky is the current starter, having been promoted over second-year guard Coby White for the Bulls’ last eight games. He’s averaging 9.8 points, 5.8 assists, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.4 steals in that span.
Chicago has gone 3-5 in those games however, with all three wins coming against sub-.500 teams.
White was struggling prior to his demotion, and those struggles have continued since being pivoted to a bench role. He’s averaging just 10.5 points on 37 percent shooting from the field since.
It’s clear that 29-year old Satoransky isn’t Chicago’s longterm answer at point guard, but they didn’t do anything to begin to answering the question as to who that may be at the trade deadline.
Or did they?
Looking Ahead to the Offseason
You can’t discuss the Chicago Bulls passing on Ball without first discussing his free agent status. The 23-year old will enter restricted free agency come the offseason, and no doubt will be looking for a longterm deal.
Chicago passed on Ball at the deadline, sure, but that doesn’t mean they’ve dismissed him altogether.
The Bulls will be one of few teams with serious cap space this offseason, leading multiple insiders and executives to believe they’ll still make a run at the point guard after this season ends.
It’s unclear just how invested the Pelicans front office is in Ball as a centerpiece of their future, given that they’ve already got two cornerstones in Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson.
Are they ready to tie up a majority of their cap space in a player that may be long gone once they both entire their primes?
Ball is going to command somewhere between $18 and $20-million annually this summer. Still, as NBC Sports’ K.C. Johnson reported, New Orleans was asking for a first-round pick at least in return for the point guard.
Instead of paying a premium for him at the trade deadline, in order to only pay more to retain him this offseason, the Chicago Bulls are playing the waiting game.
It’s not the worst strategy.