Could Lonzo Ball find his way back to Los Angeles before the 2021 NBA trade deadline?
The Pelicans guard, who started his professional career with the Lakers, has become a top target for the Clippers. The New York Times’ Marc Stein reported Friday that the Clippers are “exploring trade routes” to acquire Ball before Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline.
It’s easy to understand why the Clippers would be interested in adding Ball to the roster. He is averaging 14.2 points, 5.6 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game this season while shooting a career-high 38.5 percent from 3-point range on high volume. He has always been a terrific passer, but his development into a strong spot-up shooter would allow him to thrive on and off the ball alongside Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. He is also a solid defender at both guard spots.
There are some hurdles blocking a potential Clippers-Pelicans deal, though. Los Angeles is light on trade assets after essentially giving Oklahoma City control of its draft picks for the next half-decade as part of the blockbuster George trade. The Clippers have second-rounders to spare, but which players would need to be put on the table to make a deal worth it for the Pels?
Additionally, Los Angeles may not be alone in its pursuit of Ball. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported back in January that New Orleans had received calls from multiple teams about the availability of Ball and JJ Redick, and he noted that the Pelicans had “shown an openness” to discussing trades involving both players. If it comes down to picking the best offer, it’s hard to see how the Clippers would emerge as the top option unless a third team jumps in.
And this is all assuming that New Orleans is committed to moving Ball. The Pels’ front office could go through the due diligence process, then keep Ball as the team attempts to make a playoff push and consider its options when Ball hits restricted free agency this offseason. (The Pelicans are 12th in the Western Conference standings as of Friday and would need to reach the 10th spot to participate in the play-in round.)
Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank has always kept his cards close to the chest, and he has managed to execute some shocking deals in the past. It’s possible that the Clips figure out a way to pull off another stunner by acquiring Ball before the deadline, but it certainly won’t be easy.