The New Orleans Pelicans may be open to moving on from starting point guard and former No. 2 overall pick Lonzo Ball, according to ESPN basketball analyst Jay Williams’ sources. As relayed by NBA Central via Twitter on Friday, the former Chicago Bulls guard made the proclamation during a Keyshawn, JWill and Zubin radio broadcast.
During the show, Williams indicated he had heard that Ball could be used by the Pelicans as a “trading asset.”
In spite of the fanfare that surrounded him following his lone year at UCLA — and his subsequent selection by the hometown Los Angeles Lakers with a top draft pick in 2017 — the 22-year-old has arguably yet to make good on the star potential some felt he had upon entering the NBA.
After two seasons in L.A., during which he struggled in his early development as a shooter and scorer, Ball was dealt to New Orleans as part of the Anthony Davis trade. This past season, however, he managed to take his game to a new level offensively, averaging a career-best 11.8 points per contest and nudging his effective field goal percentage over.500 for the first time.
Despite the individual strides he made, the Pelicans failed to live up to the expectations that came with fielding one of the league’s most talented young rosters this past year, even in a difficult Western Conference.
Although the team had added No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson, budding All-Star Brandon Ingram and veteran sharpshooter J.J. Redick to a mix that already included former All-Star Jrue Holiday, it stumbled early, suffering through a 13-game losing streak during the opening months of the 2019-20 campaign.
The hole would ultimately prove too deep for New Orleans to pull itself out of — after a disappointing showing at the NBA’s Orlando, Florida, bubble, the franchise finished the year in 13th place in the West — firmly outside of the conference’s playoff bracket.
In the wake of their season’s early conclusion, the Pelicans made the move to fire head coach Alvin Gentry last week. Now, in spite of the multitude of talented young athletes in its coffers, New Orleans could look to tweak its roster for next season.
To that end, Ball could be an attractive piece for teams around the league. Although he still has work left to do, his innate court vision, his improvement from three-point range (where he connected on 38 percent of his attempts in ’19-20), his potential for development in other areas and his rookie-scale deal should warrant phone calls from GMs around the league.