Until the moment Lonzo Ball puts pen to paper this summer, he will continue to be a hot topic in the Bulls universe.
The 23-year-old point guard was already heavily tied to the Bulls at the trade deadline. In fact, Chicago reportedly made an offer for Ball and stayed in talks about acquiring him even after the Nikola Vucevic deal. Even though no deal got done, the hope for a Ball-Bulls marriage remained intact thanks to his looming restricted free agency.
The Pelicans will be able to match any contract offer thrown Ball’s way this summer, but their willingness to trade him at the deadline suggests that he could be had at the right price. What that price is and how willing the Bulls are to pay that price is unknown, but what is known is that they will have some fierce competition. The New York Posts’ Marc Berman wrote back in April that the Bulls are expected to be the Knicks’ top competition in pursuit for Ball. This wasn’t the first time we heard New York had an interest in the point guard’s services, but it did allude to the Knicks being even more aggressive in signing Ball than previously thought.
Now, NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson has added to the story, writing in his latest mailbag that the word around the association is Ball could be in New York next season.
There is plenty of talk around the league linking Ball to the Knicks if he isn’t retained by the Pelicans. So given that the Bulls engaged in trade talks centered around Ball at the deadline, I’d assume they’d re-engage and monitor the situation. But I’d rank the Bulls behind both the Knicks and Pelicans in handicapping where Ball is playing next summer.
The Knicks moving ahead of the Bulls in the “landing spot” conversation is not a good sign, but it is also not a surprise. With the signing of former head coach Tom Thibodeau and the emergence of Julius Randle, the organization will make its first playoff appearance since 2013. Momentum is on their side for the first time in a long time, and while the Bulls can say the same in some ways, it isn’t to the same degree.
Here is some of what we have previously written about why New York could be the more intriguing destination for Ball this summer.
The Bulls might be able to sell Ball on life with two All-Stars, but the Knicks can flash more proven results. Oh, and then there is the whole cap space advantage. The Knicks are in a position to have some of the highest spending power in the league, we’re talking well over $40+ million.
So not only could the Knick potentially outbid the Bulls for Ball, but they could also have an easier time in a sign-and-trade deal. Around the deadline, there was a rumor that the Pelicans could look to get off some of their longer contracts like Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe. With all that extra money in their pocket, the Knicks wouldn’t really have to think twice about absorbing either player if they want Ball that bad.
More proven success is hard to beat. More money is even harder to beat.
We can’t put anything past this Bulls front office – the same one that surprisingly signed head coach Billy Donovan and landed Nikola Vucevic at the trade deadline – but signing Ball will be an uphill battle. Fans have to hope their previous discussions with the Pelicans at the deadline can help them come through in the clutch. After all, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst did say these conversations could have been “laying the groundwork” for a sign-and-trade deal.