It seems that Brad Stevens hadn’t even finished unpacking the
boxes in his new office before he found a taker for Kemba Walker,
happily welcoming Al Horford back to the club. Horford provides the
Celtics with a steady and reliable hand on the interior, but his
re-acquisition came at the expense of the team’s starting point
Walker struggled mightily to find his rhythm last season, but he
still managed to give Boston 19.3 points, 4.9 assists and 4.0
rebounds per game. He also indirectly allowed Jayson Tatum to
blossom and put to rest any lingering doubts as to whether he
possessed the talent needed to be an alpha-scorer and go-to guy for
a winning club.
While the Celtics agreed to trade Tristan Thompson in a
three-team deal with Sacramento and Atlanta that landed Kris Dunn
to Boston, neither Dunn nor Marcus Smart should be entrusted to
serve as the primary playmaker for Ime Udoka’s offense.
Ball would give Boston a reliable perimeter defender who, at
least in theory, would help the team improve their mediocre defense
(which allowed 110.0 points per 100 possessions, ranking 15th in
the NBA). Again, in theory, with Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams
among those who would be sharing the floor with Ball, Boston would
have two defensive pluses on the wing and one on the interior. A
five-man unit also featuring Smart and Tatum would help the club
compete against all comers out East.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Boston
is among the teams interested in potentially acquiring Ball this
offseason. The problem for the Celtics, however, is that it’s
unclear how they would find a way to compensate Ball anywhere near
the $20 million he is expected to command on the open market. With
an expected salary cap of $112 million, Boston has about $94
million already committed to just the four of Tatum, Brown, Horford
and Smart. The Celtics would need to make some moves to free up
space, as the Pelicans would match any middling offer.
With the Walker trade, the fit for Ball is there, even if the
route is much less clear.
Despite Zach LaVine’s 27.4 points per game and the team bringing
in Nikola Vucevic in a deadline-day deal, how the Bulls ended last
season was a mighty disappointment. Between LaVine and Lauri
Markkanen missing a respective 14 and 21 games, it was difficult
for Chicago for find a rhythm and build chemistry, particularly
after a deadline day that also saw the club acquire Daniel Theis
and Troy Brown Jr.
Speaking of the trade deadline, though, let's not forget that
Chicago was one of the teams reportedly interested in trading for
Ball. Although Coby White is coming off of an individually
productive sophomore season, Chicago is rather thin at the
Clearing the necessary cap room to make a run at Ball would
require the Bulls’ front office to move on from several of its
pieces, including Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky — both of
whom have partial guarantees for next season. They also wouldn't be
able to re-sign Theis (who is being linked to the Houston
In the midst of it all is Markkanen’s status. On Friday night,
Chicago extended a $9 million qualifying offer to the young big
man, officially making him a restricted free agent. However, the
problem for Chicago is that until his free agency is resolved, the
team won’t be able to otherwise allocate those dollars. The Bulls
could rescind its qualifying offer, but that would undoubtedly cost
them Markkanen (whom they drafted No. 7 overall in 2017).
From a basketball standpoint, Ball could be a part of the
solution for Chicago. He could make the game easier for both LaVine
and Vucevic, but he would take minutes and on-ball opportunities
away from White and also cost a number of last season’s rotation
players. It’s an iffy proposition for general manager Marc
Eversley, but considering Chicago tried trading for Ball prior to
last season’s deadline and the fact that he'd fit nicely alongside
the team’s All-Star duo, they are certainly a suitor worth
Interestingly, Ball reportedly has his eyes on Chicago as
"For the Bulls, there's believed to be mutual interest with
Lonzo Ball on a four-year deal worth over $80 million," reports
Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer.
In a podcast interview with our
Alex Kennedy, Fischer predicted that Ball will "get a big offer
sheet from Chicago."
NEW YORK KNICKS
After a surprising season that saw Julius Randle earned the
NBA’s Most Improved Player Award and head coach Tom Thibodeau be
named the NBA's Coach of the Year, New York Knicks President of
Basketball Operations Leon Rose is heavily expected to court an
upgrade at point guard for the club.
Elfrid Payton started all 63 of his appearances as the team’s
point guard, but by the time the Knicks’ season ended in a
five-game series loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Payton had logged just
13 total postseason minutes, including three consecutive DNP-CDs in
Games 3-5 of that series.
It seems clear that New York is planning to move on, and whether
Derrick Rose is re-signed or not, at 33 years old, counting on Rose
to be an everyday starter wouldn’t be wise.
It seems for as long as we can remember, the Knicks have been
desperate to find a young, dependable, in-prime option at point
guard, with Ball finally presenting that opportunity. With respect
to Randle and RJ Barrett, the Knicks have two gifted offensive
players who struggled to create high-efficiency offense in the
postseason. In short, what they need is a floor general who can
relieve Randle and Barrett of major playmaking responsibilities
while being efficient enough to operate as a scorer in spots
If nothing else, Ball is unflappable, and he seems to have the
laid-back temperament necessary to succeed under the bright lights
of New York City. Armed with the ability to create upwards of $50
million in cap space this offseason, and in desperate need of many
of the things that Ball would provide, the Knicks would appear to
be a prime candidate to attempt to poach the young Angeleno from
Perhaps a dark-horse contender for Ball, the Mavericks just
barely beat out the Miami Heat to make our list. In order for Miami
to clear the necessary cap space to sign Ball, the Heat would have
to walk away from at least a few rotation pieces, such as Victor
Oladipo, Andre Iguodala, Goran Dragic, Kendrick Nunn and Duncan
Robinson — the latter two of whom will be restricted free
It’s hard to see Miami effectively resetting its entire rotation
one year after winning the Eastern Conference.
Dallas on the other hand? That’s a destination that makes
The Mavericks have a generational basketball talent in Luka
Doncic, and by virtue of his rookie contract, he will be earning
just north of $10 million for the 2021-22 season. That gives Dallas
a window this offseason to clear as much cap space as possible to
sign an impact player before a maximum extension for Doncic kicks
in next season.
Point guard has been targeted as an area of need for the team,
and with Friday’s reported trade that will send
Josh Richardson and his $11 million salary to Boston, the Mavericks
have enough cap space to offer a maximum contract. According to
The Athletic’s John Hollinger,
the team may have made the move with veteran point guard Kyle Lowry
Hollinger also mentioned that Dallas is "the team to
watch" in the Mike Conely sweepstakes, pointing out that the Mavs
have aggressively pursued him in the past. "I would definitely keep
an eye on Dallas," he added.
Lowry or Conley would provide more offensive production,
leadership and experience, but both players will be hot
commodities. If Dallas isn’t able to acquire one of those All-Star
options, Ball would give the team a reliable distributor who could
spell Doncic as the team’s primary on-ball playmaker and
effectively knock down the open shots that the Slovenian phenom
Dallas is obviously looking to make a splash this offseason;
don’t be surprised if it ends up being with Ball.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
With Willie Green assuming the helm in New Orleans, no matter
where he signs, Ball will be playing for his fourth head coach in
four years. The instability is certain to have a gnawing effect,
especially for a young player who has had to adjust to different
expectations and systems implemented by various head coaches.
Nonetheless, with Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram each
developing into superstars in their own right, New Orleans will
need a point guard with a fairly specific skill set. They’ll need
one who can excel off the ball since Ingram has proven effective
with it. At the same time, the point guard in New Orleans needs to
be capable in catch-and-shoot situations.
In short, Ball fits the mold. And after trading Steven Adams and
Eric Bledsoe to Memphis, the Pelicans have the flexibility to
create upwards of $35 million in cap space. Obviously, some of
those funds could be earmarked for Ball, who is expected to command
a hefty salary on the restricted-free-agent market.
By virtue of the aforementioned trade, New Orleans could
effectively replace Ball with another point guard on the free-agent
market if it deems an offer sheet to be too rich, so if nothing
else, general manager David Griffin has provided his team with
Either way, as one of the prizes of the Davis trade and as a
point guard who seems to be an ideal fit for Williamson and Ingram,
the incumbent Pelicans make a lot of sense as a potential