With the trade deadline coming up Thursday at 3 p.m ET, the Indiana Pacers apparently have not decided whether they are buyers or sellers. The Pacers front office is simultaneously looking at ways to improve their roster in hopes of convincing Paul George to re-sign and testing the trade market for George, who will likely be a free agent in the summer of 2018, per The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The Pacers are working the trade deadline on parallel fronts: Pursuing deals that will bring talent into Indiana to sell George on signing a long-term extension – and soliciting deal offers on George that would signal a rebuild around center Myles Turner, league sources told The Vertical.
Ultimately, the Pacers will have to evaluate the two paths and make a decision before Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline. There’s no urgency to make a deal for George, unless the Pacers fear the Boston Celtics could ultimately provide Indiana the best possible package of assets in a deal – and think that option could disappear if Boston makes a deal with Chicago for Jimmy Butler.
For teams considering a trade for George, here’s the risk: As a free agent in the summer of 2018, he has considered re-signing with Indiana or joining his hometown Los Angeles Lakers, sources tell The Vertical.
If your first thought is that this is insane, that’s understandable. The Pacers are lucky to have George, the star they selected with the No. 10 pick in the 2010 draft. If they’re going to keep him in his prime, it’s their responsibility to surround him with the talent necessary to compete for a championship. They typically have shunned the notion of tanking for high lottery picks and have spent the last few offseasons trying to retool rather than rebuild. Moving George would indicate moves made to modernize their offense were misguided and essentially would be an admission the front office isn’t confident it can bring the team back to where it was a few years ago.
There is an argument, however, that this is Indiana’s smartest long-term play. George’s value won’t be as high when he’s on an expiring contract, and if the Boston Celtics are willing to include their unprotected 2017 Brooklyn Nets first-round pick, there might never be a better return. As good as Myles Turner is already, the Pacers are 29-28 this season with him as George’s sidekick. Even if that’s not their fault, it would be difficult for the organization to completely turn around the rest of the roster before next season. Remember when the Utah Jazz stunned the world by trading Deron Williams for Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and two first-round picks in 2011? A similar haul could be appealing for Indiana, especially if it thinks it could wind up getting nothing for George. The Pacers won’t necessarily be able to use the designated player exception on George because he’s not a lock to make the All-NBA team.
Maybe Indiana will make a blockbuster move before the deadline. If it doesn’t, that doesn’t mean this storyline is going away. The Pacers could decide to try to get George some help now -- Jahlil Okafor in recent days, which is confusing -- and then reevaluate this situation at the end of the season. If George stays and Indiana stays mediocre, expect to hear more rumors around draft night.to Philadelphia 76ers big man