clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Examining why the Pelicans moving on from Lonzo Ball and JJ Redick makes sense

Pending free agency and young players needing minutes behind both create a perfect storm

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Have David Griffin and Trajan Langdon seen enough of this iteration of the New Orleans Pelicans? Recent trade rumors suggest it’s possible.

While Lonzo Ball and JJ Redick are not on the trade block, Tuesday’s report from Shams Charania in The Athletic makes it known both are available. Or, as former Phoenix Suns GM and Boston Celtics front office executive Ryan McDonough translated on Twitter...

Oleh Kosel broke down a little as to why the Pelicans would be looking to make a move now.

The Warriors may be interested in JJ Redick, as they were this off-season before using their massive trade exception to obtain Kelly Oubre. Redick’s contract expires after this season, and while he’s been ice-cold (by his standards), his reputation is likely to still net value from a team competing for the playoffs. Trading Redick by this year’s trade deadline (March 25th) has always made sense even if the Pelicans themselves were on the cusp of the playoffs.

Lonzo Ball’s future has been in question since the franchise was unable to come to terms with him on an extension before the season began. Ball’s performance in the bubble and thus far this season have done little to encourage Pelican fans that he’s a long term answer either.

Since COVID-19 halted the NBA in March 2020, Lonzo Ball has played 19 games and 590 minutes. He’s averaging 10.2 points, 5.4 assists, and 4.2 rebounds over that span while shooting 36.5% from the field, 28.8% (34/118) behind the arc, and only attempting 21 total free throws where he’s shooting 57% (12/21).

Redick would make sense in a lot of places, as shooting is incredibly valued around the league. Two places that make the most sense would be Golden State (in a deal where Kelly Oubre came to New Orleans) or Boston.

The Celtics are currently sitting on a massive trade exception thanks to the Gordon Hayward sign-and-trade. They’re also a team uniquely situated with enough defense to properly maximize Redick’s shooting and cover up his defensive short comings. Boston would not even need to send a player back for salary purposes, a heavily protected first round pick (Boston only owns their own firsts in the future) is the likely prize for sending JJ Redick to the Celtics.

Lonzo Ball’s market is more difficult to gauge. It is possible the Warriors would be looking to get Ball in a trade for Oubre. The Pelicans would need to find another avenue to trim salary (see the Boston scenario above) to avoid the luxury tax in a Ball-for-Oubre swap. Trading Redick or Ball for Oubre trims the Warriors luxury tax bill this year, giving the Warriors added incentive. One obvious trade partner in my mind is the New York Knicks.

The Knicks have sufficient cap space to absorb Ball’s salary outright. They also have multiple first round picks (their own and the Mavericks 2021 first round pick, unprotected) to offer for Ball. If it is Redick who the Warriors want, sending Ball to the Knicks for a first round pick could also make sense. Here’s a look.

In either iteration, the Pelicans end up with an additional first round pick (Celtics or Mavs) and Kelly Oubre, with roughly $9.6 million in additional space freed up below the luxury tax. They also drop down to 13 players under contract. However, since New Orleans has not utilized their mid-level exception yet, they could sign a couple veteran free agents (Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Dewayne Dedmon come to mind) to fill out the roster.

Kelly Oubre isn’t a player that would come in and fix the Pelicans’ woes. Could he help on defense? Yes. That’s not the point of this trade. Moving on from Redick (almost certainly gone after this year anyway) and Ball (likely gone if he receives an offer sheet beyond where the Pelicans value him) has additional benefits beyond Oubre and a mid-to-late first round pick.

Ball and Redick are averaging over 52 minutes a game. Oubre isn’t going to play all of them. Moving two guards (Ball, Redick) and adding a long (6’7” with a 7’3” wingspan) wing like Oubre helps balance the roster. Most importantly, it allows the Pelicans to slide Brandon Ingram up to shooting guard, and find consistent minutes for both Kira Lewis and Nickeil Alexander-Walker off the bench. Developmental minutes that are sorely needed for two players that, according to the Utah Jazz broadcast last Thursday, the Pelicans see as the backcourt of the future.

Is this damnation of Ball or Redick? Hardly. I would expect Redick to return to form soon in a Pelicans’ uniform or not. He’s too good of a shooter. As for Lonzo Ball, his particular set of skills do not mesh as well as expected with Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson. This has as much to do with Ingram and Zion’s need for a big body defender behind them (Derrick Favors and now Steven Adams) as it does with Lonzo’s inconsistency behind the arc and lack of desire to drive to score.

Lonzo Ball is a good player. Given the correct circumstances, he could thrive in the NBA. It doesn’t mean the Pelicans should stop building around (and shoring up) the weaknesses of their two franchise cornerstones to maximize Lonzo Ball.

Is Kelly Oubre the savior the Pelicans need? Hardly. Trading away JJ Redick and Lonzo Ball isn’t about fixing this franchise now. It’s setting the stage for the future.