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JJ Redick, Nicolo Melli traded to Mavericks, Lonzo Ball staying with Pelicans

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Not an explosive trade deadline for New Orleans but a smart one

New Orleans Pelicans v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

There was a flurry of activity at the 2021 NBA trade deadline across the league and the New Orleans Pelicans made a smaller deal, shipping JJ Redick and Nicolo Melli to the Mavericks in exchange for James Johnson, Wesley Iwundu and Dallas’ 2021 second round pick.

For the Pelicans to receive any compensation in return for Redick and Melli, two players strongly believed to be on their way out this summer — if not sooner via a waiver and hit the buyout market, should be considered a win for New Orleans.

While Johnson (per 36 minute stats of 11.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.6 blocks) and Iwundu (per 36 minute stats of 6.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.1 steals) are not likely to move the needle, the Pelicans can experiment with a big wing known for his defensive chops alongside Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. Wenyen Gabriel was signed last offseason to fill a similar role, but he has not yet earned the trust of Stan Van Gundy, appearing only in garbage minutes spread out over six games.

While the speculation was much quieter on the JJ Redick and Eric Bledsoe fronts in recent days, the rumors had swelled regarding Lonzo Ball over the last 48 hours. The Knicks were reportedly trying to piece together a deal that would have brought Ball to New York and taken Bledsoe’s contract off New Orleans’ hands. The Bulls were rumored to be in hot pursuit, especially in the immediate aftermath of landing Nikola Vucevic, and the Clippers and 76ers were mentioned as potential destinations for the Pelicans starting point guard as well.

Well, Lonzo Ball is staying put in New Orleans, and to be perfectly honest, the decision feels a correct one. None of the rumored returns at this point in time felt adequate enough to justify moving on from a productive player beloved by teammates. Not for Tomas Satoransky, Kevin Knox or Frank Ntilikina. Not even Lauri Markannen, in my opinion.

According to Brian Windhorst on the latest episode of The Jump on ESPN, though, today’s events do not guarantee that the Pelicans will re-sign Ball despite his restricted free agency because the Knicks, Heat and Raptors are expected to have the cap space this summer and fill holes at point guard.

“I’m not sure where the Pelicans are financially and whether they can afford Lonzo Ball at his price with the other commitments that they have, but today was a huge day for Lonzo Ball because the Chicago Bulls made moves to use up their cap space,” Windhorst said. “They now would have to create space to sign Lonzo — that was a serious contender to sign him.

“I don’t know where they are so enter the New York Knicks and the Miami Heat,” Windhorst continued. “Those were two teams that were interested in trading for him, will have open salary cap space and the need for a point guard this summer — also, the Toronto Raptors if Kyle Lowry ends up moving on. Today was also a big day for Dennis Schroder who was potentially an option for Chicago if they couldn’t get Lonzo in the summer. Now that door seems to be a little bit closed. So look for Lonzo, Schroder and Lowry to be the subject of a bidding war amongst the teams that need point guards this summer.”

Yes, there is a real chance that the Pelicans could lose Lonzo Ball this summer for nothing if another team signs him to an offer sheet and David Griffin decides to not match. However, a sign-and-trade remains a possibility and then there’s the obvious fact that New Orleans could simply decide to keep him, absorbing whatever cost lies ahead. The decision could be made much easier if Bledsoe gets removed from the equation.

The remaining 29 games on the schedule feel vitally important for further evaluation purposes. Lonzo, Ingram and Zion have appeared together in just 59 games going back to last season. When also considering their individual ages, that group is still very much a work in progress. Moreover, that trio on the court without Bledsoe is currently wielding a +13.0 net rating, per Cleaning The Glass. It would be great to see Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kira Lewis Jr. get more run alongside of them than Bledsoe, who has clearly underperformed and often hampered team success.

While the 2021 trade deadline failed to set off big fireworks in New Orleans, I’m happy with the day’s results. Ball feels like he could still be a big important piece of the future and now the front office has more time to decide the proper path for this young core.

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.