Only one day after the blockbuster trade between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers to send the No. 1 pick to Philly reportedly was agreed upon, the NBA world got more big news out of the Eastern Conference when Pacers star Paul George reportedly told the Pacers he was not planning to return after next season. Let's work through some of the details.
What happened between Paul George and the Pacers?
According to a report from Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, Paul George informed Indiana Pacers execs that he has no long-term plans with the franchise, and will test the free agency waters in the summer, with the Los Angeles Lakers being his preferred destination.
What will happen between the two sides moving forward?
Not surprisingly, the report touched off some trade talks, as teams are hoping to poach George from Indiana before the Pacers lose him for nothing in 2018. One of those teams is the Cleveland Cavaliers, per multiple reports.
In addition, Zach Lowe is reporting the Pacers will try to move quickly on making a deal.
Sense from teams talking to IND is that Pacers intend to move fast on a PG deal.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) June 19, 2017
What leverage do the Pacers have?
Well, not much. George has indicated that he's not going to re-sign with the Pacers next summer, meaning they will lose an All-Star forward for nothing unless they swing a deal before next season's trade deadline. On top of that, George seems set on going to the Lakers, so it's very likely any trade would be a rental. With these factors in play, most teams will not be eager to give up too much in trade.
Do the Cavaliers have a legitimate shot at getting George?
According to Dave McMenamin, the Cavs are not concerned with George's interest in Los Angeles. Via ESPN:
The Cavs are willing to enter into trade talks for George without any assurances he will commit to a long-term deal in Cleveland, a source familiar with the Cavs' thinking told ESPN. Cleveland is confident its championship culture and overall atmosphere could sway George to want to stay after playing out the 2017-18 season on the final year of his deal.
Thus, the question becomes what would the Cavs give up to land a possible rental superstar? LeBron James is obviously off the table, and draft picks from Cleveland are of little value because those likely would be at the end of the first round the next few years. That means, in all likelihood, the only players Indiana would covet are Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson. Thompson alone doesn't figure to be enough to swing a trade for George, even with the Pacers' lack of leverage, so any deal likely would have to include Irving and/or Love.
Overall, the Cavs seem to have a legitimate shot, because they can offer a star. However, they would have to decide whether it's worth it to part ways with Irving or Love (or both, depending on what the Pacers ask). Each player is under contract until at least 2019, and the Cavs would be getting a player who -- despite their confidence in convincing him to stay -- may very well leave after next season for the Lakers.
Where do the Lakers fit?
Los Angeles seems to be George's first choice after his contract expires next season. It's probably a safe assumption that Magic Johnson won't want to give up many young assets to get the All-Star forward -- even more so than any other team in the market for George.
As Wojnarowski notes, "the Lakers can create the necessary salary-cap space to sign George next summer and won't be compelled to make a dramatic offer to Indiana now."
They do have to weigh the possibility that another team could trade for George before next summer and convince him to stay, but it sure seems like there is a very good chance, based on the Sunday's report, that George may be wearing purple and gold come the start of the 2018-19 season.