NBA

NBA free agency 2021: Lonzo Ball joining Bulls via sign-and-trade with Pelicans, per reports

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Lonzo Ball is heading to the Chicago Bulls on a four-year deal worth $85 million in a sign-and-trade agreement, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The New Orleans Pelicans will send Ball to Chicago in exchange for Tomas Satoransky, Garrett Temple and a second-round pick, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

The Bulls will be Ball’s third team in five NBA seasons. He was drafted by his hometown Los Angeles Lakers No. 2 overall in 2017 and spent the first two seasons of his career there, but after they signed LeBron James, he became a trade chip that helped them land Anthony Davis. He proceeded to spend the next two years of his career with the Pelicans, where he frequently found himself in trade rumors. 

Still, Ball’s evolution as a player in New Orleans has been significant. After making only 31.5 percent of his 3-pointers with the Lakers, he improved to 37.6 percent with the Pelicans. His assist numbers took a bit of a dip last season as he become more of an off-ball player, but he remains one of the NBA’s most lethal transition playmakers. Throw in his high-level defense and rebounding as a guard and Ball is now one of the more versatile all-around players in the NBA. He never grew into the traditional superstar point guard that the Lakers expected him to be, but the Bulls won’t ask him to be that kind of player. 

In Zach LaVine, they already have a primary ball-handler that can score at all three levels and be the engine of their offense. Ball is coming in as a complementary guard. His shooting will make it even harder for defenses to key in on LaVine, and his size gives him the versatility to guard almost any possible backcourt assignment, which protects LaVine on that end of the floor. After trading for Nikola Vucevic at the deadline, the Bulls have sent the message that they plan to try to be competitive next season. 

They’ve taken a big risk by going that route. Barring any surprising moves, the Bulls will no longer have the cap space to renegotiate LaVine’s contract up to its max and give him an extension at that price. In all likelihood, that means that LaVine will become a free agent next offseason. He could still re-sign in Chicago, and that’s what the Bulls are betting on. With the right teammates, they hope Chicago is where he wants to spend his prime. Whether or not that will be the case remains to be seen. 

For Ball’s sake, it hopefully will be. He has had a nomadic start to his NBA career by a No. 2 pick’s standards, but in Chicago, he’s found a roster well-equipped for him to succeed. 



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