Potential Landing Spots for Paul George
It’s important to set the stage for the free agency of Paul George by taking a quick glance in the past. The 6’8 Forward battled back from a career threatening leg injury in 2016, to lead the Pacers to the playoffs the following year. And in doing so, he proved not only to the NBA, but to himself, that he Is one of the best two way players in the league. The Palmdale native and Fresno State standout is very familiar with rumors and the offseason minutes that has colored the latter half of his career to this point. And for good reason. George has been one of the most flirty “pre-agents” in recent memory. Although he hadn’t fully showed his hand, George’s open interest in signing with the Lakers during this years offseason was the main justification from Indiana for trading him to the Thunder. A move that was originally seen as an OKC fleecing. However, as George entered the storm with Russ, his connection with LA remained a constant. Like GM Sam Presti, thunder hopefuls are now shaken at thought of losing a piece of their post Durant future.
The curious case of Paul George has loomed over our heads for the past year now. Presti admitted that in signing George, their goal was to “contend for a title and compete with the best teams in the league”. I’d add to his statement that giving up Oladipo and pocket change for George would be a small price to pay if OKC could’ve found their way to the Conference Finals. Their ceiling however, was clearly marked. And now Oklahoma City’s fears of becoming a middling western conference team with one of the best two way players in the league have been fully actualized. Like other potential suitors, OKC will only have one last pitch to keep “their” guy. Due to his unrestricted free agency status, and similar to fellow fence stander LeBron James, George’s camp will have a host of suitors itching to add the All-Star wing.
(Ranked 1-3, in order of the most likely)
1. Lakers: “Showtime Reimagined”
In need of the “face of the franchise” type of player, regardless of position, the Lakers have spent the last few years fumbling through the lottery. George is the big fish for whom Magic was hired to land.
Cap Breakdown: $70M if they waive & stretch Deng ($59M otherwise).
Goals: Looking for two max players to rejuvenate the franchise i.e. (James/ George/Leonard).
Roster Fit: The Lakers franchise is itching for superstar talent. Yes, they have a vacancy on the wing, but they’d be willing to basically gut their entire roster for the potential of adding big name stars such as George, LeBron, and/or Kawhi. Pelinka is smart. He knows that their young talent is important, but neither Kuzma or Brandon Ingram has the ceiling of Paul George.
2. OKC: “Lets Run it Back”
With George in the fold long term, OKC can retool around him and Westbrook. While figuring out how to move bad contracts to balance out their roster with shooting, youth, and veteran depth.
Cap Breakdown: Over the Cap, and will pay significant luxury tax bill of $104 Million if they sign George to the 5 year max. However, with three or four spots to fill, they will have a large tax bill regardless.
Goals: Retain their All-Star wing, and sign veterans to the minimum.
Roster Fit: The Thunder will have a huge hole on the wing if Goerge leaves. With no smooth plan B, they need his creation and shot making skills to offset Anthony’s inefficient offensive deficiencies.
3. Sixers: “Shaq & Penny +1.. PART 2?”
With two budding and eventual superstars already in the fold, Philly could use an adrenaline boost to their franchises ceiling. Goerge will provide a clear go to scorer to provide consistency to their attack, while being capable of guarding opposing teams best wing scorer.
Cap Breakdown: Can create up to $35 Million by declining Richard Holmes’s contract and trading Jerryd Bayless.
Goals: Adding star talent without hedging their future assets.
Roster Fit: Goerge would provide a significant upgrade on the wing over Robert Covington, as a go to scorer and secondary playmaker beside Ben Simmons.
Big take: The main reason PG was in Oklahoma City in the first place is because he wanted to be in LA. Now, with full control over his outcome, I’d be shocked if he didn’t join forces with (insert star here) in LA. Whether it is Kawhi, Boogie, or the Kid from Akron, PG’s signing will be the ceremonial red flare that signals the reinvention of The Lake Show. Somehow, someway, Magic Johnson will figure out how to get George back home. And with PG in Lala-Land, it will be tough to see a situation where LeBron turns down the prospects of playing with one of the best players in the NBA.
Sources: https://www.basketball-reference.com , http://www.spotrac.com/nba/cap/2018/ , https://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2018/06/19/the-lakers-bulls-and-76ers-head-the-teams-with-the-most-2018-salary-cap-space/#4d2aa47e53e7