Almost immediately after Paul George vented frustration about his Pacers after a loss to Charlotte, ESPN’s trade machine must’ve been cookin’.
The Thunder could use another superstar. It could use a superstar that plays the small forward position. WAITAMINIT PAUL GEORGE PLAYS THAT POSITION.
Let’s tap the brakes, shall we? Or rather, push your foot all the way through the floorboard Flintstones-style.
Some have already proposed some sort of package built around Enes Kanter, Cameron Payne, and Andre Roberson for George. And sure, from a pass/fail perspective, there are ways to make the money match in a deal like this and make trade machines happy. Add in Sabonis and Abrines if you wish. Bring back a crappy contract or two from the Pacers. It could theoretically work.
But let’s look at this from Indiana’s perspective: why do they want to trade George again?
Players venting like this are a staple of pro sports. If Russell Westbrook complained that the Thunder were “kind of just lifeless,” it wouldn’t mean the Thunder are lining up deals for him in February. The Pacers have issues, to be sure, but Larry Bird should be a long ways away from entering the auto destruct sequence.
Far be it for me to say something will NEVER happen, but this one is a stretch. Moments after this publishes, I’ll probably have to write about a blockbuster trade between the Pacers and Thunder for all I know. But there are other angles to consider here.
George, an All-NBA player and defender, is locked into an extremely favorable contract through 2018 (he has a player option for 2018-19 but if that gets exercised, he’s suffered something more catastrophic than a shattered leg). He’s eligible for a contract renegotiation and extension similar to the ones signed by Russell Westbrook and James Harden over the summer. He’s better off waiting to pursue that after July 2017 for a bunch of boring salary cap reasons.
If the Thunder somehow pulled off a deal for George, they are unlikely to have the cap space needed to re-do his deal next summer. That’s probably a very important thing for George. And if you don’t believe that George would have a say in his future destination, then you underestimate the power of an NBA superstar.
If the Pacers ever reached the point of trading George, either because they want to or because George’s representation forces the issue, there are other destinations that make more sense. Boston, Denver, and Minnesota have a bunch of assets and can also create some cap space in July, for example. Not to mention pretty much every other NBA team will want in on this. The Warriors probably want him, too.
The Thunder roster of today is unlikely to stay this way much longer. I’m willing to risk a Freezing Cold Take and say that it’s super unlikely to feature George anytime soon.