In the aftermath of trade talks that arose around Thursday’s trade deadline involving Indiana Pacers star Paul George, the fallout sets up what could be a league-altering set of consequences. After the Pacers passed on offers for George, including reported proposals from Boston and Denver, George expressed a.
And this is far from the first time this season George has had gripes about his squad.
In short, you have a player who was shopped at the deadline, is a free agent in the summer of 2018, who has openly leaked that he is interested in signing with the Lakers, who has openly said he’s unhappy with how the current team is constructed.
It is for all these reasons, and more, that on “The Lowe Post” podcast with Zach Lowe, Brian Windhorst of ESPN called this upcoming summer “The Summer of George.” Windhorst projects that the damage done between the Pacers and George after how everything went down at the deadline could open up a bidding war for the forward who hits the market in 16 months. On Wednesday, USA Today reported that George had sent a message to ownership: he wants to stay in Indiana if they can contend, but if not, he’s headed to L.A..
Needless to say, this changes things quite a bit. The free agency market is short on available stars, with Steph Curry and Blake Griffin expected to re-sign with the Warriors and Clippers, respectively. George being available in a trade is a true MVP-level player that can possibly be attained. The market could evolve in a hurry for George, which could force Boston’s hand after they held out at the trade deadline, not wanting to give up too much for the All-Star.
The question, of course, is how available George is, and how willing he’ll be to re-sign in free agency. Teams have to have an assurance from George’s people that he’ll re-sign, or at least be open to re-signing, before they’ll pull the trigger. You can’t give up multiple assets to get a guy and then watch him walk out the door in free agency. If George is serious that his choices are only the Pacers or Lakers, then that could hold off teams.
For the Lakers, it’s vital that they manage this situation correctly. The Knicks and Carmelo Anthony need to be their blueprint of what not to do. The Knicks knew that Anthony wanted to come to New York, and New York still surrendered four starters and picks to Denver. As long as the Lakers keep building in the right direction (which is a separate issue), and communicate to George’s people that they’ll be interested, they’ll be in a position to land him no matter what.
However, there is a down side. If another team takes the gamble on George, and is able to actually put together a promising run while making George feel appreciated and comfortable, they’ll be able to re-sign him for more money and years, which could risk the Lakers’ chances at him. So do you give up assets to make sure you 100 percent get him -- or do you play the odds?
George could reshape the entire outlook of the Lakers and help them take a Shaq-like step toward returning to their former glory. But do they liquidate some of the young talent to add another star next to him? And if they do, and George doesn’t come in free agency, what then?
There’s a lot to figure out, and the Pacers aren’t going to stop trying to build a contender around George to entice him to stay. Of note, if he makes an All-NBA team, he’s eligible for the $200 million designated player extension next year; that could swing everything. But any way you look at this, the biggest name in NBA player movement going forward is going to be Paul George. The trade deadline is over, but the PG drama is just beginning.