This NBA offseason is already nuts. First, Jimmy Butler was traded to the Timberwolves on draft night. Then Chris Paul was traded to the Rockets. Now, in a move almost nobody saw coming, , with the Indiana Pacers reportedly getting Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis in return.
Just to confirm it all: It's Paul George for Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo. No picks.— Royce Young (@royceyoung) July 1, 2017
There is so much to analyze, from so many angles, about this pretty shocking trade, so let's just get into it with the winners and losers.
Winner: Oklahoma City Thunder
This is pretty obvious. They got Paul George for Victor Oladipo and a guy who averaged less than six points a game on less than 40-percent shooting. Pairing George with Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams could, if everything breaks right, make the Thunder the second-best team in the West this year. They should be right there with the Rockets and Spurs, depending on how free agency plays out.
George -- who, remember, is still a free agent after next year -- has made it no secret that he wants to ultimately end up with the Lakers, but still, this was absolutely a great move for OKC, which adds a legit top-6 or 7 player in the league one year after Kevin Durant seemingly left Westbrook to fend for himself for the foreseeable future. Remember, Westbrook could also leave in 2018. Maybe this gets him to sign an extension before that situation even arises, but even if it doesn't, it certainly shows him the franchise is not going to stand pat and let his prime years get away from him.
And who knows, maybe a year of playing with Westbrook and getting into the heat of the Western playoffs convinces George to make a go of it for the long haul in OKC. That would be a grand slam for the Thunder, but this move alone, even it's only for one year, is already a home run.
At the very worst, you unloaded Oladipo's anchor of a contract -- $84 million over the next four years.
Loser: Cleveland Cavaliers
Jimmy Butler to the Wolves. Paul George to the Thunder. Kevin Love ... still in Cleveland.
Cue the Debbie Downer music.
Before we go any further, let's just say that Love is getting a raw deal. He's being made out like a guy who can't run and chew gum at the same time, like the Cavs have gone to the end of the earth trying to dump him and nobody will touch him. The guy is an All-Star. Still a double-double machine. A really, really good player. But he doesn't help the Cavs beat the Warriors because it's a particularly bad matchup for him athletically, and beating the Warriors is the only thing that matters to the Cavs.
Getting something for Love is the Cavs' only play to get better; they have no salary-cap room for a significant free agent and no draft picks available to trade until 2021. They wanted Butler and couldn't get him. They wanted George and couldn't get him. LeBron James can leave after next year, and it's looking more and more like the Cavs are going to come back with the same team that they had last season, which isn't good enough to beat the Warriors, and with no real viable route to change that even in 2018, that doesn't sound all that great in a pitch meeting.
The Cavs have been talked about as being in the Carmelo Anthony market if he were to get bought out by the Knicks. But why would the Knicks buy him out and get nothing for him? Perhaps Melo would waive his no-trade clause and the Knicks could get Love for Melo (which they should absolutely jump on if it were offered and Melo agreed), but really, does Anthony make the Cavs any better than they are with Love? If so, probably not by much.
Cleveland needed George or Butler to really become a better team this offseason, and they're both gone.
Loser: Boston Celtics
The Celtics lose a couple ways on Friday. First, there was every reason to believe they had a shot at Jimmy Butler had they been willing to part with either this year's No. 3 pick (Jayson Tatum) or the Nets' first-round pick next year. Not getting Butler didn't sting so much knowing that George was still in play. Now that's out. Oh, and if you haven't heard, Blake Griffin is now out, too, as he re-signed with the Clippers on Friday, .
So here's Danny Ainge, right back where he has been for pretty much the last year, with a whole bunch of draft picks and young players and a shot at Gordon Hayward, who will also reportedly meet with the Heat and Jazz, at least.
Frankly, if you're Hayward, suddenly the Celtics aren't looking that much better than the Heat, or the Jazz, who just traded for Ricky Rubio on Friday and are already trotting out one of the most promising young rosters in the league. Frankly, even if the Celtics get Hayward, that probably isn't enough to put them past Cleveland in the East, though it would continue them on a really nice upward trend.
Not too long ago, it looked like a real possibility that Ainge would be in position to make a serious play for both Hayward and one of George or Griffin. That would've been a team that certainly could've beaten the Cavs, if not seriously challenged the Warriors for NBA supremacy. Finally, it felt like the Celtics were going to get in the championship chase rather than continue to play the long game.
It's not entirely their fault. Ainge can't be blamed for not giving up the farm for George when he could just walk next year, and though we don't know the exact pieces, chances are Boston made a better offer to Indiana than what it just got from OKC. Still, they lost out on two big-time players they had their eyes on, and there's no guarantee they're going to get the one that's left.
Again, this has been a wild offseason. Anything could still happen. But George and Griffin are huge names off the Celtics' white board. Oh, and they also gave up Markelle Fultz, who a lot of experts think was the best player in the draft by a fairly wide margin. Worse, they gave him to a team in the Sixers that could shortly be coming for the Celtics -- when and if Ainge's project actually comes to fruition.
Getting Hayward would ease the sting of this night for Boston fans.
Winners: Utah Jazz, Miami Heat
Again, this is pretty simple. Utah and Miami really want Hayward, and the Celtics, who were probably the favorites to sign Hayward from a pure basketball standpoint, just potentially became a much less attractive destination with George going to OKC and Griffin re-upping with the Clippers.
That doesn't mean the Celtics won't still get Hayward, or that either the Heat or Jazz will. At this point, it feels like anything could happen the way this offseason has been going. But the Heat and Jazz are definitely more hopeful than they were Friday morning.
Loser: Indiana Pacers
No disrespect to Oladipo and Sabonis, but this is not much of a haul for a player of George's caliber. In fairness, Indiana had absolutely no leverage as George, again, has made it absolutely clear that he wasn't going to stay next year. So they couldn't lose him for nothing.
Still, this feels like a panic move. No draft picks in return? If they were simply going to trade for players and no picks, wouldn't a deal with the Cavs for Kevin Love have been better? Cleveland has been doing everything it can to unload Love, and get George. That deal almost certainly could've happened. Instead they get Oladipo (and his $84 million over the next four years) and an absolute unknown in Sabonis?
Again, no disrespect, but that's a robbery.
Wait and see: Los Angeles Lakers
This could go one of two ways for the Lakers, who were reportedly considering trading for George this year just to ensure that he not end up with another team and then have second thoughts about coming to L.A. in 2018. Now that he's with OKC, he could, in theory, take to playing with Westbrook so much that he not want to leave for a situation with the Lakers where there is no guarantee of playing with another superstar.
Or, he brings Wesbtrook with him to L.A.
That's hugely speculative at this point, and right now, the Lakers pretty much stand where they always have, waiting for George to become a free agent in 2018. This just added another dynamic that could go two different ways for the Lakers.