All sorts of chatter is heating up inside two weeks of the 2021 draft and free agency. The latest batch of intel is particularly heavy on latter happenings. Lonzo Ball (restricted), Kyle Lowry, Norman Powell and potential cost-cutting measures aimed at maximizing free-agency windows are all generating some buzz at the moment.
Remember: The “B.S. Meter” is not meant to trash the highlighted reporting. Every tidbit here is included because it holds meaningful weight. Our B.S. meter is designed only to gauge what we should make of each situation—if anything.
Butch Dill/Associated Press
Pressure to win is rapidly crescendoing in New Orleans these days. It’s not particularly hard to see why.
Pelicans Interested in Kyle Lowry
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Come one, come all, you’re just in time for another trip down the NBA’s rumor-mill vortex.
Let’s discuss them, and more, shall we?
Executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin is on his second head coaching hire (Willie Green) in as many offseasons. Zion Williamson is already really good and either he or his family isn’t happy with the Pelicans’ vibes. Brandon Ingram is one year into a max contract. New Orleans invested biggish money in Steven Adams last offseason with a two-year, $35 million extension. Lonzo Ball (restricted) and Josh Hart (restricted) will require significant raises this summer.
Every team has issues, but the Pelicans are incurring problems typically undertaken by entrenched playoff squads. They certainly aren’t that. They’re fresh off two years of relative underachieving in which they failed to crack the play-in tournament.
Urgency is their obligation. And it seems they’re prepared to meet it. They are among the teams who plan “to enter the race” for Kyle Lowry in free agency, according to NBA reporter Marc Stein. New Orleans’ interest in the 35-year-old is unimpeachable. It needs a floor general who can help set up the offense and put pressure on defenses in half-court situations, and who also has no qualms working off other primary ball-handlers. Lowry checks all the boxes and plays with a motor that inspires those around him to run through a brick wall on both ends of a round trip to hell.
Figuring out how the Pelicans can bag him is less of a given. They won’t have cap space to start the offseason; they could have some luxury-tax concerns if they re-sign both Lonzo and Hart. Brokering a sign-and-trade with the Toronto Raptors would be New Orleans’ most efficient, if only, path to Lowry. And it isn’t particularly hard to cobble together different permutations. The Pelicans can attach picks and/or Nickeil Alexander-Walker to Adams or Eric Bledsoe, or they could gauge the Raptors’ affinity for a dual sign-and-trade involving Lonzo.
This all presumes Lowry wants to play in New Orleans. That might be a reach. The Pelicans will be much scarier with him co-starring beside Ingram and Zion—and absolutely harrowing if they keep Lonzo in the process. But they still won’t be in the same class as the Western Conference’s foremost contenders. Lowry will enjoy better title odds in Dallas, Miami, Philadelphia (if he can find his way there) and even Toronto. If the Pelicans win him over, it’s probably because they came over the top with a contract offer (via sign-and-trade) that blows the rest of the market to smithereens. And, frankly, that’d still be a huge W for them.
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
Damian Lillard hasn’t officially hit the trade block, but that hasn’t stopped rival teams from spamming Portland Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey with inquiries. The Houston Rockets, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers and Sacramento Kings “have recently been the most aggressive suitors” in pursuit of Lillard, according to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor. Fans of those five squads should slow their roll before ordering custom-made No. 0 jerseys. O’Connor added that “few team executives” believe the Blazers will trade Lillard this offseason.
Heat, Kings, Knicks, Rockets and Sixers All Chasing Damian Lillard
2 OF 5 B.S. Meter: New Orleans’ interest in Lowry is eminently believable. Its path to getting him is a different story.