According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the New Orleans Pelicans are angling to trade JJ Redick and Lonzo Ball before the March trade deadline. Both Redick and Ball have struggled this season, as New Orleans remains out of the playoff picture in the Western Conference.
The Pelicans’ two best players are Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. They average 23.9 points per game apiece and are both on an upward trajectory. Although the Pelicans boast two of the top 20 scorers in the league, they rank in the bottom-half of offensive efficiency (19th). A lack of spacing accounts for their lackluster performance among 30 teams.
New Orleans landed veterans Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe as starter-level pieces through the recent Jrue Holiday blockbuster trade. Both Adams and Bledsoe are strong defensive players, but they hurt spacing around the interior-scoring Williamson and the isolation-prone Ingram. Through their 19 combined seasons, they have never been true threats shooting outside the paint.
To offset these imbalances, the Pelicans planned to lean heavily on Ball and Redick. They were two of their most reliable outside shooters from a year ago. Both Redick (29.8) and Ball (30.1) are posting career-low three-point percentages. Still, they pose as enticing trade candidates for teams angling for contention.
Adams and Bledsoe are signed through the 2022-23 season. Meanwhile, Redick and Ball will enter the free agency market this upcoming offseason. It is in the Pelicans’ best interest not to lose these rotational players for nothing.
Redick Belongs Alongside an Elite Big Man
Shooting is a premium in the NBA. This past offseason, Joe Harris and Davis Bertans inked multi-year contracts averaging over $16 million per season. Do not be surprised when Duncan Robinson draws $20 million annual figures when he hits the open market. In this modern NBA, you can never have enough shooting.
The fact of the matter is that Redick is one of the best shooters of all-time. Part of his success is a result of playing with some of the best big men of his generation. Such as Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin, and Joel Embiid when all three were in their prime.
Typically, teams centered around big men, no pun intended, require more shooting than others. Redick would be a fine addition playing alongside Nikola Jokic in Denver, Anthony Davis in Los Angeles, or returning to Philadelphia to reunite with Embiid. Although Williamson (age 20) is a beast scoring in the paint, he does not fit the same timeline as Redick. It is not worth keeping this duo intact.
At age 36 and playing in his fifteenth professional season, the end might be near for Redick if he continues to shoot poorly from three. That being said, he is an adult and may find himself hanging around for his wisdom. Similar to Jared Dudley with the Lakers or Udonis Haslem with the Miami Heat. That Duke degree has to account for some smarts, you know?
He could fit-in easily with any contender, such as the Milwaukee Bucks or Los Angeles Clippers.
Lonzo Ball Could Be the Ultimate Glue-Guy
Lonzo exhibiting some ‘Trade Me’ body language. Van Gundy is NOT about it 😭 pic.twitter.com/PNVx1mU2mm— Ed (@KyleEdwords) January 28, 2021
If that video is any indication, it looks as though Lonzo is in desperate need of a change of scenery.
As I have written before, Ball remains one of the most polarizing players in the league. Despite the hype surrounding his second-overall selection in 2017, he appears to be destined as a role player. He is not even the ‘Best Ball‘ in the family anymore.
In spite of his weaknesses, which are well-documented, Lonzo is a pass-first guard with elite defensive instincts. What he lacks as a pick and roll ball-handler, he makes up for as a ball-mover. Ball makes quick, intuitive decisions and reads the floor well. In my opinion, he does not make a bad team good, but he can make a good team better. Sort of like how Nicolas Batum is more useful in Los Angeles than Charlotte. Lonzo likely tops out as an elite ‘glue guy.’
Contenders with existing ball-creators, such as Brooklyn and Philadelphia, would be a great fit for Ball. Other teams who already have a defensive identity and need another guard, like Toronto or New York, would also mesh well with Lonzo’s skills.
Trading Redick and Ball Could Thrust New Orleans Out of Competitive Purgatory
‘Purgatory’ is defined as an intermediary zone inhabited by souls before ascending to heaven. In basketball, that ‘promised land’ is the glory of a championship banner. The bottom-rung teams are compensated with draft capital to maintain a competitive balance.
This promotes a cycle with lesser teams on an upward trajectory, and better, older teams are damned with a shelf-life. Sometimes, however, certain teams field a roster with both young talent and proven veterans. These franchises typically find themselves in purgatory. They have enough talent not to suck, but their players’ timeline is out of whack. They are not that good, and their ceiling is limited. Just look at the New Orleans Pelicans, for example.
Williamson (first-overall pick 2019) and Ingram (second-overall pick 2016) are the young, franchise cornerstones. Their supporting cast is either in their prime (Adams), past their prime (Bledsoe), or near their prime (Josh Hart). It is fair to say that in order to maximize the trajectories of Williamson and Ingram, the Pelicans should keen on young, exciting players like Hart.
The current roster is not working, and the priority should be to fully invest in building future pieces around their foundational talent. In order to do so, and emerge from the sticky floor of competitive purgatory, the time is near for New Orleans to trade Redick and Ball. Now is the time while the league is in an arms race and more competitive franchises will readily give up just what the Pelicans need moving forward.