The same three names that appeared on the radar back in January are still out there: Lonzo Ball, JJ Redick and Eric Bledsoe. From everything I’m hearing and reading, it’s highly probable that New Orleans will soon say goodbye to only one of these players.
The odds of seeing the Pelicans re-sign Redick are practically zero so he is destined to finish the 2020-21 season on a different team. His stay in New Orleans has not worked out as originally planned. The Pelicans are poised to miss the playoffs again and the priority shifted visibly towards development weeks ago.
Proving he’s overcome the awful shooting slump to begin the year, Redick is sporting a 46.4 3PT% since the start of February. The 36-year-old shooting guard could still help a number of playoff contenders and there’s no doubt that he wants a to take a few more stabs at winning a ring before retirement.
With the likelihood of receiving a tangible asset low in any deal, the growing sentiment is that New Orleans will wind up waiving Redick after the deadline passes. After all, why should another franchise give up a young player or draft pick for a guy fully expected to hit the buyout market?
Although many fans would approve of seeing Bledsoe follow in the likely footsteps of Redick and get waived if he can’t be moved, expect for the disappointing guard to remain on the New Orleans roster until at least the next offseason, when it’ll be easier for the Pelicans to move his contract.
It’s obvious that Bledsoe failed to make the necessary adjustments going from a championship contender to a team sitting outside the playoff picture. With his defensive chops falling precipitously off the pace set while on the Bucks and currently posting season averages of 11.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists — to go along with a 42.2 FG% and a 65.6 FT%, suitors are not lined up at the door.
Opposing front offices are hesitant in taking a chance on any rebirth now because Bledsoe is still owed too much money and years on his current contract without also the accompaniment of a real asset. On the flip side, David Griffin can’t be eager to attach one of the future first round picks from his war chest just to move a previously positive resource acquired in the Jrue Holiday trade with Milwaukee.
Bledsoe’s contract, however, will look much more palatable this coming summer as the final year of his deal in 2022-23 has a partial guarantee of $3.9 million.
The biggest chip that’s been dangled by the Pelicans is Ball, but a lot has changed since his name first appeared in the rumor mill when the team was gauging his market value. No surprise, the feeling around New Orleans is they would prefer to keep the young contributing player who fits well alongside Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.
The Pelicans’ willingness to discuss Lonzo has everything to do with his own market. That’s a common thread here: It’s not that the team doesn’t like the player, but it may not like him at the price that is likely forthcoming in free agency. To that end, one source who has discussed the Lonzo dynamics with New Orleans said the 23-year-old guard is hoping to make approximately $20 million annually on his next deal (he’s a restricted free agent this offseason).
Since the start of February, Lonzo is averaging 15.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists and a mere 1.8 turnovers. In addition to being an above average defender, Ball has become one of the best 3-point volume shooters in the league — 3.4 made threes and a 42.4 3PT% over this stretch.
It cannot be overstated that the 23-year-old point guard is on pace to set career-highs in a number of important statistics. His confidence and leadership continue to trend in the right direction while a member of a New Orleans franchise with so few sure bets on its existing roster.
As I’ve maintained during his turnaround, New Orleans should strongly hesitate to move on from Lonzo Ball for any weak returns or packages centered around unproven talent or more draft assets. Ingram and Zion need to be surrounded by players who are ready to help them win games. BI expressed a desire to not miss further postseasons last August and Williamson’s third campaign is fast approaching. The time for creating more questions than finding answers or fielding more experiments has passed.
My gut feeling is Lonzo Ball will be retained for the time being, especially after reading yesterday about the abysmal offer made by Chicago. Tomas Satoransky and second-round picks for Ball sounds like an April Fools’ joke, but it also signals that no deal is imminent.
The same can roughly be said for the rumored scenarios involving Bol Bol and Cam Reddish. New Orleans will not give Lonzo away for pennies on the dollar, trading a legitimate NBA starter for an unestablished player who is asked to headline a package. If that’s the information getting leaked, it’s difficult to imagine the Pelicans are close to trading their starting point guard.
Stay tuned for further developments!