New Orleans Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball becomes a restricted free agent this offseason, and he’s expected to receive interest from several teams after having a productive 2020-21 campaign. The former Los Angeles Lakers guard averaged career-highs in points and 3-point shooting after vastly improving his shooting form.
Ball and the Pelicans didn’t agree to a rookie-scale extension before the 2020-21 season. The California native can sign an offer sheet with another team once free agency begins, and then the Pelicans would have 48 hours to match the deal or let Ball walk.
Despite Pelicans stars Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson being fans of Ball, it appears there’s a chance the former UCLA Bruin could leave New Orleans this summer and play for the Chicago Bulls or Los Angeles Clippers next season.
Pelicans reportedly unlikely to match significant offer sheet on Lonzo Ball
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Pelicans are unlikely to match a significant offer sheet on Ball, who averaged 14.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 5.7 assists in 2020-21. The NBA insider reports that the Bulls and Clippers are expected to be interested in the 2017 No. 2 overall draft pick.
Ball’s name came up in several trade rumors at the 2021 trade deadline. The Pelicans may regret not trading him, especially if they lose him this offseason without getting anything in return. Both the Bulls and Clippers will be in the market for point guards once free agency begins and have a good amount of salary cap space to offer Ball a sizable deal.
It’s unknown why the Pelicans shopped Ball at the deadline and seem so keen on moving on from him. After all, he’s a high-level defender and passer and shot 37.8% from beyond the arc this past season. Regardless, the Bulls and Clippers are certainly hoping the rumors out of New Orleans are true since Ball would be an excellent fit for them.
Lonzo Ball would help the Bulls and Clippers
The Bulls have been searching for a point guard ever since they traded Derrick Rose in 2016. Ball could be the perfect floor general for Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic, as he’s efficient in pick-and-roll plays and would create easy looks for the Bulls’ All-Stars on the perimeter and in the post due to his driving ability and elite court vision.
As for the Clippers, they have a big decision to make with Reggie Jackson, who played extraordinary in the 2021 playoffs and becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. Jackson is a better scorer than Ball. However, the latter is a far superior defender and playmaker than the former. Furthermore, Ball is younger and has a lot more upside than Jackson.
It’s been fascinating to watch Ball’s progression in the NBA. He struggled to shoot mightily in his two years with the Lakers but has put in a lot of work on his jumper and is a much more confident offensive weapon.
How did Zo fix his jump shot?
With the help of Pelicans assistant coach Fred Vinson, Ball made 172 3-pointers in 2020-21 by modifying his shooting form. The older brother of LaMelo Ball is now releasing the ball on the right side of his head.
In December 2019, Ball spoke with Andrew Lopez of ESPN about his new shooting form.
“We just take it step by step,” Ball said. “It wasn’t a drastic change from the beginning. I kind of got here and he (Pelicans assistant coach Fred Vinson) just started with my follow-through. We started with legs after that. Then we started from the left to the middle to get it to the right. I think now my shot is just more consistent. It feels the same throughout the game instead of how I had it last year when it was kind of adjusting throughout the game. It just comes with hard work. I’m going to keep working and hopefully [shooting percentages] will keep going up.”
Ball certainly has All-Star potential if he continues to work on his body and game since he’s a solid two-way player with a high basketball IQ. It will be interesting to see if he’s back with the Pelicans or is starting for the Bulls or Clippers next season.
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.