The New Orleans Pelicans have still not tipped their hand about what they plan to do with restricted free agent Lonzo Ball.
The Pelicans extended Ball the qualifying offer, which made him a restricted free agent, but there are a number of teams that have reportedly shown interest.
The Bulls are not a surprise, as they have long been linked to Lonzo Ball in trade rumors, but I did think the Celtics were somewhat unlikely suitors, so that surprised me.
All of these teams could just offer Lonzo Ball a deal and if the Pelicans don’t want to match the biggest one, Ball could just leave as a free agent.
The other option is to try and work out a sign-and-trade, which is less likely, as there are some financial complications and everyone involved has to agree to it and want it.
There might be something to work out with the Bulls and Lauri Markkanen, but that would require two sign-and-trades, which makes it less likely.
The Celtics aren’t projected to have enough cap space to sign Lonzo outright, so would rely on a sign-and-trade to land him, but there is a possibility out there that makes sense.
New Orleans Pelicans: The Pelicans could sign-and-trade Lonzo Ball for Marcus Smart
If the Pelicans don’t see Lonzo Ball as part of their future plans, then they could try and sign-and-trade him so that he doesn’t walk for nothing.
The Pelicans can match any offer, so it’s possible they could sign Lonzo and then trade him to his preferred destination but the other team would have to send back similar salaries to make it work.
The Celtics have a guy in Marcus Smart, who would get them most of the way there, and he is a guy who I’ve long liked as a fit for the Pelicans.
Smart is a tough, hard-nosed defender who is one of the best on the perimeter in the entire NBA and can defend up as well.
Smart is, well, smart as well, a high I.Q. player who can fit into almost any lineup and would be a nice addition next to Zion Williamson.
He would also be cheaper than Ball at only $14.3 million for next season, the final of his contract, which means no long-term commitment if things don’t work out.
This would potentially leave the Pelicans some space to add another guy, so Smart is an interesting possibility.
I still think it is a long-shot, but the Celtics will be a team to watch as free agency kicks off.