As he heads toward restricted free agency, Lonzo Ball has been prominent in trade rumors. The Pelicans are open for business on some players, and if they don’t want to risk losing Ball for nothing in the offseason they may listen on him.
According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, the Los Angeles Clippers are “exploring trade routes” to get Ball.
Entering Friday, the Clippers have the fourth-best record in the Western Conference (26-16). But they’re just 5-8 in their last 13 games (4-6 in the last 10), and they have a real void at point guard. The combination of Patrick Beverley and Reggie Jackson isn’t cutting it from a play-making standpoint. According to NBA.com data, the Clippers are 24th in the league in potential assists per game. They are also 24th in pace (97.6). Despite those two low-level numbers, they have the league’s fourth-best offensive rating (117.3).
Since Feb. 1 (23 games), Ball has made over 42 percent of his 3-pointers while averaging 15.3 points, 6.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game. He has also averaged less than two turnovers per game over that span. Overall this season he’s averaging 14.2 points, 5.6 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game (38.5 percent from beyond the arc).
As Stein noted, the next first-round pick the Clippers can trade is in 2027. So a third team would surely have to be involved in a scenario where they get Ball, to sweeten the pot of assets for the Pelicans. The Clippers have players (Lou Williams, Beverley, Luke Kennard) who can work on that level in a deal, going to New Orleans or the hypothetical third team.
Paul George (5.3 per game) and Kawhi Leonard (4.9 per game) are the Clippers’ leading assist guys this season. So it’s obvious why they’re looking at getting a point guard before the deadline, and Ball might open up things in a way not many can. The path to get him just won’t be direct, or easy.