With the NBA trade deadline approaching in just a month’s time, the wheels are beginning to turn for fans interested in putting together potential deals. On Tuesday, Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey threw out a trade suggestion centered around the Portland Trail Blazers snagging New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball in exchange for Derrick Jones Jr. and a 2023 first-round pick.
On the surface, the trade feels difficult to get behind. The Blazers are only 16 games into the Derrick Jones Jr. experiment, and there’s a case to be made that he’s more than held his own on the defensive end.
Opponents are shooting 3.4 percentage points worse when defended by him, but even more so than that, it’s difficult to argue that Ball presents a substantial upgrade over what Jones Jr. offers.
As I noted on Twitter, few defenders play chameleon the way Jones Jr. does. He spends 31.4 percent of the time guarding point guards, and switches from position to position, so as to prevent Portland’s backcourt stars from overexertion.
That versatility hasn’t translated into the team defense — they rank 29th in defensive rating — but would Lonzo Ball remedy that by much?
Bleacher Report proposed a trade that would send Lonzo Ball to the Portland Trail Blazers. But is a deal of that kind actually worth it for Portland?
It’s difficult to get into a deal like this contractually, too. Part of the allure of Lonzo Ball is that he’s going to be a restricted free agent after the season.
On the flip side, the ink likely hasn’t even dried on Jones Jr.’s two-year, $19 million contract. It’s not only risky, but not necessarily Olshey-like to give up on an investment this prematurely. It’s true that Ball would be a strong antidote until McCollum comes back, but Anfernee Simons’ recent scoring monsoon makes it easier to hit pause on a deal.
Then, there’s the thinking behind Lonzo Ball’s playstyle. Ball has been serviceable from the corners, and in years past, even sprinkled in a little post play from either side. But the lion’s share of his offense comes above-the-break.
There’s difficulty imagining him being successful there without mucking up the spacing for Damian Lillard, a player who makes his money in that deep middle area.
With respect to Ball’s ability, it feels as though it would be just another player for opponents to sag off of. With Lillard’s championship window closing, trading for Ball would be merely ad hockery; it just serves little benefit in the grander scheme of things.
There’s a real world in which Ball can contribute for a championship-caliber team. That team just probably shouldn’t be the Portland Trail Blazers.