The New Orleans Pelicans have taken the first step toward potentially keeping Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart.
Per ESPN's Andrew Lopez, New Orleans extended qualifying offers to Ball and Hart on Saturday.
Ball's one-year qualifying tender is worth $14.4 million, though he seems likely to receive a long-term offer from at least one team. Meanwhile, Spotrac noted Hart's qualifying offer is worth $5.2 million.
As restricted free agents, the Pelicans will have the ability to match any offer sheet that Ball and Hart sign from other clubs. They can also continue negotiating with both to get a long-term deal done before the start of free agency.
There's been speculation about the 23-year-old Ball's future dating back to the trade deadline in March when he was mentioned as a possible candidate to be dealt. New Orleans held onto him hoping to make a run at the playoffs, but things didn't come together for the team in Stan Van Gundy's first year as head coach.
One possible reason the Pelicans considered moving Ball is what he might be seeking in a long-term contract. Sam Amick of The Athletic reported at the time the UCLA alum is "hoping to make approximately $20 million annually on his next deal."