Why Celtics Should Be Monitoring Pelicans Star’s Situation in New Orleans

Getty Images Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and Brandon Ingram of the New Orleans Pelicans

The New Orleans Pelicans – a franchise standing at a significant crossroads – are heading toward a crucial offseason; drastic changes could bode well for All-Stars Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson.

Failing to reach the postseason in three consecutive tries should signal a change is in order in New Orleans. And Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball could be the piece used via a sign-and-trade move to get the ball rolling, this upcoming summer.

But, how big of a risk are the Pelicans willing to take? Or, better yet, could the Boston Celtics get involved and seal a deal with New Orleans that would be cap-sufficient on a short-term basis; including next summer, while also offering some long-term flexibility in ‘The Big Easy.’

Why Celtics Should Be Monitoring Lonzo Ball’s Future in New Orleans

In the meantime, the Pelicans still have time to get things right in terms of surrounding their All-Star duo with sufficient talent to stay afloat in the NBA’s competitive Western Conference. However, adding pieces that could bolster the Pelicans’ team on both ends of the floor and potentially clear up enough cap to add an additional player in free agency could be in the cards.

Still, to be frank, acquiring Ball is a long-shot, for Boston. Consider this the newly-appointed Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens’ first hail-mary attempt, and if Lonzo decides he’s on his way out of town, here’s how the Celtics’ proposal would break down.

  • Celtics Receive:
    • PG Lonzo Ball
    • C Steven Adams
    • C Jaxson Hayes
  • Pelicans Receive:
    • PG Kemba Walker
    • C Tristan Thompson
    • C Robert Williams III
    • 2022 first-round pick

For the sake of making this argument, let’s say the first year of Ball’s contract is worth over $24.5 million. Between Ball and Adams, the Celtics would be taking in roughly $41.5 million in salary for 2020-21, including Adams’ $17.9 million for next season while Boston would be sending over Walker’s hefty contract that’s worth just over $36 million next season.

How The Celtics Could Offer The Pelicans Plenty of Upside

However, Thompson’s expiring deal, worth $9.7 million, along with Williams’ bargain of a deal, starting at $3.6 million, could be a stock worth investing in, if you’re the Pelicans. Tristian’s production last season saw him averaging 7.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.2 assists for the Celtics — which were numbers nearly identical to Adams’ 7.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.9 dimes a game, throughout 2020-21.

Combine Rob’s promising upside in the frontcourt with Walker’s scoring production as a third or fourth option along with a future first in 2022 and it could beat seeing Lonzo walk away for nothing in return if Ball ultimately decides to leave.

Plus, the Pelicans would be positioning themselves to make a big splash in 2022, where they can take a legitimate swing at impending free agents. With Adams’ contract, worth $17.9 million, and an extended Lonzo deal off of the books, this trade with the Celtics essentially gives the Pelicans a much more dynamic lineup; adding Walker, Thompson, and Williams compared to last season’s and it frees up enough cap room for New Orleans to reel in another starter from the 2022 free-agent class.

Thompson’s contract expires and the final year of Walker’s four-year, $140 million max-deal kicks in in 2022 and could be re-negotiated; it’s a player option. Restructuring Kemba’s final year would extend the Pelicans’ spending exponentially while the Pelicans attempt to mold a title-contending core.