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Rumor: Pelicans open to Lonzo Ball sign-and-trade

Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 16: Lonzo Ball #2 of the New Orleans Pelicans passes the ball against the Washington Wizards in the second half at Capital One Arena on April 16, 2021 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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While shopping Lonzo Ball before the trade deadline, the Pelicans had to assess numerous questions:

How much would Ball return then? How much would he help New Orleans the rest of the season? How much would it cost to keep him in restricted free agency this summer? How likely was he to accept his qualifying offer in order to gain an implicit no-trade clause until becoming a 2022 unrestricted free agent?

And how much could Ball return in a sign-and-trade this summer?

Brian Windhorst and Andrew Lopez of ESPN:

Ball was involved in trade discussions with several teams before last month’s trade deadline, with the LA Clippers, Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets and Atlanta Hawks among the teams showing interest, sources said. Some executives came away from those talks with the belief that Ball might be available in a sign-and-trade in the offseason as a restricted free agent.

Maybe those executives are incorrect. They don’t necessarily know what the Pelicans are planning.

But that’s the type of thing that could absolutely come up in pre-deadline discussions between teams. Some teams that couldn’t reasonably trade for Ball last month might have even preemptively made sign-and-trade offers in order to get New Orleans to hold off on a Ball trade before the deadline.

Because Ball will be a restricted free agent, a sign-and-trade is the only way for another team assure acquiring Ball. If someone signs him to an offer sheet, the Pelicans could match.

Of course, New Orleans could still keep Ball. He’s a good player who fits well with Zion Williamson, especially as Williamson plays more like a point guard.

But it does seem Ball’s offseason is pretty open with possibilities.