As of Wednesday, Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball seemed more likely than not to be traded this week. But Thursday’s deadline came and went without a Ball deal, and the former No. 2 overall pick is now on track to reach restricted free agency with New Orleans later this year.
In the view of Will Guillory of The Athletic, the Pelicans made the right move by hanging onto Ball, who has noticeably improved since joining the team two years ago and complements New Orleans’ star forwards (Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram) well. Guillory suggests there were “legitimate” offers on the table, with the Hawks, Knicks, and and Bulls among the teams in the mix, but the Pels ultimately opted to take their chances with the point guard in restricted free agency.
Ball’s free agency will provide its own set of challenges, particularly since the Pelicans also want to retain RFA-to-be Josh Hart and may have to move off Steven Adams‘ or Eric Bledsoe‘s contract to re-sign both Ball and Hart and avoid the tax. An aggressive offer sheet for Ball from a rival suitor could also force New Orleans into a tough decision. But Guillory believes there would be a trade market for Ball down the road even if his next contract is worth a little more than the Pelicans would like.
Here’s more from around the Southwest:
- After signing Sindarius Thornwell to a pair of 10-day contracts, the Pelicans had been considering a rest-of-season deal for the veteran guard. If that happens though, it’ll have to be a little later this spring. As Andrew Lopez of ESPN notes (via Twitter), New Orleans moved so close to the tax line following its deadline-day trade that a rest-of-season signing at this point would push team salary over that threshold.
- Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle explains the thinking behind the Rockets‘ decision to trade Victor Oladipo to Miami for a relatively modest return. As Feigen details, Oladipo’s days in Houston were likely numbered if the Rockets had hung onto him through the deadline, and the team wanted to open up more minutes for Kevin Porter alongside John Wall, so the front office opted to take the best offer available for Oladipo on Thursday.
- With several veterans on expiring contracts, the Spurs were in position to shake up their roster at the trade deadline. However, as is typically the case in San Antonio during the season, the team opted to stand relatively pat instead, making just one small financially motivated move, acquiring Marquese Chriss and cash from Golden State. Noting that the Chriss trade was the Spurs’ first deadline deal since 2014, Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News examines the club’s decision to once again remain quiet at the deadline.