Within hours of the leak that the New Orleans Pelicans would want Lonzo Ball as part of any trade package they received for sending Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers, Ball’s camp put out a counter-leak that he had no interest in playing in New Orleans.
The problem for Ball and those around him, though, is that neither the Pelicans or Lakers have a whole lot of incentive to give Ball — who is under team control for at minimum another two years and realistically around five, given the existence of restricted free agency — what he wants.
Still, that hasn’t stopped Ball’s camp from continuing to push back on the idea that he would be open to playing with the Pelicans, and now Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times is reporting where exactly Ball would prefer to go:
Although Lonzo Ball has no say in where he lands in a trade, his preference would be for the Lakers to find a third team such as Chicago or New York as a landing spot for the second-year point guard if he were part of a deal for New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis, according to sources not authorized to speak publicly.
Those destinations might be difficult for a few reasons, not the least of which because the Knicks — who are in on the Davis derby themselves — wouldn’t seem to have any motivation to help facilitate Davis joining the Lakers, even if it netted them Ball in the process.
The Bulls, meanwhile, don’t seem to have that much to offer in a three-way deal that would be equal to Ball’s value, especially because it appears the Pelicans value him pretty highly (again, via the L.A. Times):
Ball’s camp has concerns about how crowded the Pelicans’ backcourt is. The problem for Ball is that he’s a key part of what the Pelicans want in a deal for Davis.
According to sources, the Pelicans view Ball as a player who would become the starting point guard. They don’t see Jrue Holiday as a point guard because he “doesn’t want to be a point guard,” one source said.
This may not be great news for Ball, even if it’s clear the Pelicans want to try and accommodate his camp’s stated concern about having an established point guard. Who this news is great for, however, is the Lakers.
It wasn’t clear before how much the Pelicans liked any of the Lakers’ young prospects, and while we still don’t know the answer to that with any certainty, that the Pelicans see Ball as a key to the deal means that they do appreciate his game on some level. They may not be thirsting to hand over Davis in exchange for Ball, but at the very least it appears they might be able to resign themselves to him being a core part of a Davis trade package at some point.
And the Pelicans’ interest makes sense, because Ball is a genuinely good young player. Ball is already one of the best defenders in the league among point guards, and has averaged 9.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.5 steals in 30.3 minutes per game this season en route to being chosen by the NBA’s assistant coaches as one of the 20 most promising rookie and sophomore players in the NBA. His grade 3 ankle sprain may have sidelined him for now, but Ball was genuinely starting to put it all together.
The other thing worth noting here is that while New York and Chicago hardly have an established point guard situation, the fact that Ball’s camp doesn’t want him in New Orleans playing alongside Jrue Holiday and only competing for minutes with Elfrid Payton would seem to imply that they care more about keeping him in a big market than they do about getting him to a team where Ball has a clear path to big minutes and success. Otherwise, wouldn’t the Phoenix Suns or Orlando Magic, just as two examples, be on this list?
Still, the big takeaway here is that there is at least one member of the Lakers’ young core that the Pelicans like. That’s a place to start these trade negotiations, and then where it goes from there will depend on how many assets the Lakers are willing to offer and whether or not New Orleans values all of them in tandem more than the package the Boston Celtics is begging them to wait on until July.
The NBA trade deadline is Feb. 7. Hopefully we’ll have some clarity on all this by then.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.