Last week, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that the New Orleans Pelicans were open to trading point guard Lonzo Ball and the rumors have continued into this week. While Charania didn’t report on any possible suitors at the time, it didn’t take long for the Bulls to find themselves in the conversation alongside New York, Orlando, Toronto, and Dallas.
Today, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst echoed the Bulls participation in these sweepstakes on The Hoop Collective podcast (30:31).
They [the Pelicans] have shopped Bledsoe, Lonzo, and Redick. One of the places that, in addition to Golden State, that you think of Lonzo as a possibility – although, I don’t know about by Tuesday – would be Chicago. If Chicago might have interest there, but we’ll see about that. Lonzo just had a spectacular game on Saturday, one of the best games he’s had this year, if not the best. It would be an interesting time to trade him.
Windhorst does not add to the Lonzo Ball trade rumor any more than that, but I do think we can all agree this is a significant comment, nonetheless. This is now the second time we’ve heard the Bulls connected to Ball in the past week, and it’s by an ever greater NBA voice. So the question now is … what’s fueling these rumors?
The easiest answer would be that the Bulls are genuinely interested. The organization has tried the Coby White point guard experience for roughly a quarter of the season and has seen nothing but inconsistency. Perhaps they are hungry for a legitimate pass-first option at the position. At the same time, it would feel a bit odd for this front office to walk back on a decision they made in such a short amount of time. White has shown flashes in his time on the court, and the Bulls also do already have Tomas Satoransky as a safety net.
I could envision the team being interested in swapping out Satoransky for Ball (a much younger talent), but we also have to remember that Ball comes handcuffed to a big decision. Like Lauri Markkanen, the 23-year-old will hit restricted free agency this offseason, which means the Bulls fear either (1) losing him or (2) another team running-up an extension offer. In other words, if Chicago were to give up assets for Ball this season, it would likely tell us that this front office considers him as an investment worth making.
Even then, the Bulls wouldn’t want to be swindled into overpaying. While Windhorst is right in saying that Ball has a pretty tremendous game this weekend, the Pelicans guard has been all kinds of bad this season. He is averaging only 12.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game. Both his rebound and assist numbers are, by quite a significant margin, career-lows. This very poor start to the season isn’t bound to net the Pelicans what they would hope in the trade market.
With that in mind, here is what we discussed as a possible offer from the Bulls on a Lonzo Ball trade last week:
Ok, but enough of this chatter, let’s talk about what a deal would look like. I posed this question on Twitter, and it’s clear that people perceive Ball’s value VERY differently. Again, look at his recent stats, the Pelicans are not about to get some magnificent haul for Ball. Lauri Markkanen for Ball would be a big fat no for the Bulls (not even if the Pelicans include a pick, in my opinion). Instead, a deal centered around a veteran role player makes far more sense for Chicago and in this situation. We’re talking Tomas Satoransky or perhaps Thaddeus Young along with a second-round pick (though, admittedly, I’m not sure how interested they would be in Sato with plans to play their young guards more often). I also could envision the Bulls sweetening the pot a bit with someone like Chandler Hutchison thrown alongside a vet.
One big game from Ball isn’t going to change things. And if he strings together a few more of those performances, well, we’ll cross that bridge if we get there. Regardless, nothing changes the fact that he is a restricted free agent this offseason and that he has not lived up to his No. 2-overall selection back in 2017. None of that means he can not help a team like the Bulls, but it does mean that it could be an unnecessary risk to take.
Oh, by the way, we should also keep in mind is that this could all be a bunch of hoopla. Remember this offseason when everyone and their mom was throwing the Bulls into the point guard conversation? Yeah, I could see that happening again. Arturas Karnisovas keeps things quiet, which allows/forces other people into speculating what they believe the Bulls to be interested in. White has not excelled at the point guard position yet, so people might simply view that as enough to put Chicago in the running for Ball. They truly might not be interested at all.