Can the Houston Rockets trade for Paul George?

With Paul George revealing he will be leaving the Indiana Pacers, the team is looking for trade partners for the forward. Can the Houston Rockets enter the mix?

The 2016-17 NBA season just ended seven days ago. The 2017 NBA Draft hasn’t even been completed and we are still about two weeks away from free agency starting.  And yet, the trades and rumors have already begun swirling in the NBA world.

First it was the Boston CelticsPhiladelphia 76ers pick swapping deal that took NBA fans and analysts by storm. Now with the news that Paul George expressed his intent to leave the Indiana Pacers in the summer of 2018, it looks like a trade involving the star will be coming this offseason.

There is no doubt that George is a star in today’s NBA. He is a four-time All-Star and a two-way player, providing value on both ends of the floor. This past season George averaged 23.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game while shooting 39.3 percent on three-pointers and posting an effective field goal percentage of 53.3.

Those are pretty elite numbers. And while many of George’s advanced statistics were disappointing last season (such as his 7.1 win shares, +2.8 box plus-minus, and +2.58 real plus-minus), many still consider George to be in the upper echelon of forwards in the league.

After the news about Chris Paul planning to meet with the Houston Rockets this offseason came out, many fans questioned the fit. However, there should be no concerns or questions related to George’s potential fit in Houston.

George can certainly play off the ball on offense, as 81.5 percent of his three-pointers were assisted on last season. For his career, 79.3 percent of George’s threes have been assisted on. While George can also handle the ball and create for others, he is more than capable of spotting up off ball.

Perhaps just as importantly, George would be an elite defensive addition for a team that could certainly use more perimeter defenders. George’s defense has slipped in recent years as he has taken on more of an offensive role, but he is still an above-average defender. Also, George has shown in recent playoff performances that he can still be an elite defender when fully engaged.

In the 2017 NBA Playoffs, George averaged 28 points, 8.8 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game, shooting 42.9 percent on three-pointers. Granted it was in a four-game sweep at the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, but it was a valiant effort from George.

What would it take to trade for George?

With George publicly revealing his intentions to leave during the 2018 free agency period, he has put the Pacers in a tough position when it comes to negotiating a trade. Since George will very likely be a rental for any team he gets traded to (except maybe the Los Angeles Lakers), teams looking to acquire George may not have to give up much in return.

This is where the Rockets come in as a logical (and reasonable) trade partner. Houston has a good amount of young talent (Sam Dekker, Clint Capela, Chinanu Onuaku, Zhou Qi), future draft picks and an array of starter quality players.

For example, a package including Sam Dekker, Eric Gordon, and a future first round pick could very well be enough to trade for George. The Pacers were rumored to be interested in Indiana native Eric Gordon last summer, and would be a logical inclusion in any deal for George.

It remains to be seen if the Pacers would accept such a deal from Houston, but it would be a trade the Rockets should be looking to complete. As Daryl Morey said, the Rockets might up their “risk profile and get even more aggressive.” Trading for Paul George — even as a rental — would certainly qualify as a risk.

With Chris Paul potentially interested in joining the Rockets, a trade for Paul George certainly makes Houston a more appealing destination. Now of course, this is all speculation and would require extraordinary roster manipulation by Daryl Morey, but it’s safe to say that with Morey you can never rule anything out.

In the end, Houston can trade for George, and certainly should look to do so. The Rockets would be adding a star player that can play off the ball and defend at an elite level. Morey knows he must be aggressive and take risks. Trading for George would be the perfect way to accomplish both goals.

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