Paul George trade rumors: 5 teams that should deal for Pacers’ star

Paul George trade rumors

Apr 23, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) points during a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers in game four of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Cleveland defeats Indiana 106-102. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Knowing that Paul George will leave in free agency next summer, it’s time for the Indiana Pacers to trade him. Here are five teams that could put a deal together.

The Paul George trade rumors are swirling, and an era has all but come to an end for the Indiana Pacers.

After months of speculation and leaked reports about the All-Star forward’s interest in signing with his hometown Los Angeles Lakers upon hitting free agency in 2018, that growing fear became official Sunday afternoon.

According to The Vertical‘s Adrian Wojnarowski, PG-13 has informed the team through his agent that following the 2017-18 NBA season, he will opt out of the final year of his contract to become a free agent, at which point in time he will leave the franchise — most likely for the Lakers.

While George informing general manager Kevin Pritchard of this impending decision gives the Pacers a chance to brace for the future, it also limits the team’s ability to get much value for him on the trade market.

Non-contenders won’t sacrifice significant assets if they fear he’ll only be a one-year rental, and the return will be significantly lower than his true value with the threat of the Lakers looming in free agency.

However, at this point the Pacers will have to take what they can get on the trade market, which is what Woj reports they will do as the team is aggressively seeking out a deal. The question is, which teams might be interested in a possible one-year rental, and what kind of return can Indiana realistically expect?

Believe it or not, there are a few contenders that would make sense as potential Paul George trade suitors, especially if they believe they can turn a successful playoff run into a long-term free agency extension.

PG-13 averaged a career-high 23.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game on .461/.393/.898 shooting splits this year, and his status as one of the game’s elite two-way players is well known. Bearing all that in mind, here’s a look at five possible Paul George trades.

Honorable Mention:

Toronto Raptors — It’s a nice idea, but their best offer of something like Jonas Valanciunas, Cory Joseph and Norman Powell would be giving up too much from Toronto’s perspective. A core of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Paul George and Serge Ibaka might be enough to get past LeBron James in the East, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty with Lowry and Ibaka being free agents. One failed playoff run, even with that core intact, would send PG-13 out west, and from Indiana’s perspective, that trade package doesn’t really help with a full-scale rebuild outside of Powell.

Paul George trade rumors

Feb 6, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) dribbles the ball as Oklahoma City Thunder forward Andre Roberson (21) defends at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers won 93-90. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

5. Oklahoma City Thunder

This one would have to wait until Victor Oladipo‘s poison pill provision expires on July 1 to work financially, but the Oklahoma City Thunder desperately need another star to pair with their MVP candidate.

No one outside of Russell Westbrook should be indispensable if the front office is convinced it can add another superstar to the mix, which should be the goal as the Brodie’s 2018 free agency creeps closer.

With Kevin Durant gone, the wing position was a glaring need for OKC. Paul George would bolster an already potent defense, he’d provide another scoring punch to take the pressure off Russ to do everything and his three-point shooting would open up driving lanes that were constantly clogged.

We’re going to assume the Pacers wouldn’t be interested in Enes Kanter, and that the Thunder would prefer to keep Steven Adams. Oladipo had a good but not great year in his first season with the Thunder, and though he’s never broken out as expected, he’d be a decent return for a Pacers team that might not receive too many overwhelming offers.

Thunder get SF – Paul George

Pacers get SG – Victor Oladipo
No. 21 overall pick

This deal would have to wait until the start of free agency for Oladipo’s new extension to kick in for salary-matching purposes, but if the framework of the deal could be hammered out before the draft, the Thunder could simply select whoever Indiana wants with the 21st overall pick and trade that player once the trade became official a few weeks later.

Throwing in that pick gives the Pacers an additional first-rounder to aid their rebuild, along with a well-balanced player with a defensive mindset.

Oladipo only averaged 15.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game on 44.2 percent shooting last year and his outside touch is still an issue. But perhaps expectations were simply too high for him to begin with, and to suggest he’s not a good NBA player would be foolish.

However, as fun as Russ and PG-13 would be, they’re not enough to lift OKC above the Golden State Warriors or even the San Antonio Spurs in the Western hierarchy. Anything short of a conference finals run would send George and/or Russ to Hollywood in 2018, and even that might not be enough to convince one or both of them to stay if the two don’t click perfectly.

After experiencing the pain of losing Kevin Durant in free agency last summer, OKC’s brass may not be eager to risk that happening again next offseason, especially if they have to give up one of their three best players to facilitate a deal.

Paul George trade rumors

Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

4. Portland Trail Blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers are looking to shed salary and unload one (or more) of their three first round picks in this year’s draft, according to Sporting News. A Paul George deal with Rip City might be a slam dunk for both sides.

The Blazers have $132.9 million in guaranteed money on the books for next season — well over the projected $101 million salary cap and $121 million luxury tax line. Getting money off the books and avoiding even the tiniest of contracts for three new rookies is a priority for general manager Neil Olshey, especially after locking in a young core that only won 41 games for the long haul.

The team’s prime salary dump candidates include Evan Turner ($17.1 million next year), Allen Crabbe ($19.3 million), Meyers Leonard ($9.9 million) and Maurice Harkless ($9.7 million). To match George’s $19.5 million salary, Crabbe and one or two of Portland’s 2017 first-rounders might be enough to satisfy Indy:

Trail Blazers get SF – Paul George

Pacers get SG – Allen Crabbe
No. 15 overall pick
No. 26 overall pick

A deal like this would give the Blazers the upgrade they need on the wing, especially since George’s ability to play multiple positions would help a porous defense that ranked 21st in defensive rating last season.

Covering for Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum would be a boon on that side of the court, and he’d form a dynamic three-man star tandem on the offensive end.

The Blazers would risk losing George for nothing after one season, and they wouldn’t be good enough to contend for a title in 2017-18, but those fans are crazy about their team. Perhaps a return to winning, two of the game’s bright young stars and Portland’s rich basketball culture would be able to convince him to stay.

Even if he left, Rip City would still get one absurdly large contract off the books, avoid adding a couple of unnecessary rookies and enjoy at least one year of a top-15 player.

From Indiana’s perspective, Crabbe is a decent role player and the team pockets one or two additional first-rounders to go with its own selection at No. 18. Ideally the Pacers would get two, though it’s difficult to say which picks Portland would be willing to give up with George’s trade value being so depleted and the Blazers owning the No. 15, No. 20 and No. 26 picks.

Assuming they’re not interested in part two of the Evan Turner Experiment (a safe assumption), the 25-year-old Crabbe shot 44.4 percent from three-point range while averaging 10.7 points per game this year. His contract is massively inflated, but shooting and defense are premiums in today’s NBA, and additional picks in a talented draft class would aid the rebuild around Myles Turner.

However, the Pacers might be able to do better from the three more desperate teams ahead of Portland on this list, which is why this sensical and realistic deal for both sides only comes in at No. 4.

Paul George trade rumors

Nov 1, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) drives to the basket against Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell (1) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats the Los Angeles Lakers 115-108. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

3. Los Angeles Lakers

Yes, the Los Angeles Lakers could very well remain patient, comfortable with the knowledge they’re No. 1 on Paul George’s free agency list a year from now.

However, if someone else swings a deal for PG-1, they risk losing him forever if he falls in love with his new team — especially if that new team is a legitimate contender that can convince him winning will make him happier than a homecoming to a rebuilding franchise.

If that’s the case, and legitimate contenders join the bidding war, the Lakers may feel compelled to acquire George sooner rather than later.

Luckily, even the pain of departing with one of the team’s young franchise pillars like D’Angelo Russell or Julius Randle would be alleviated by getting the contract of Luol Deng ($17.2 million) or Timofey Mozgov ($16 million) off the books, since one of them would have to be included for salary-matching purposes.

Lakers get SF – Paul George

Pacers get PG – D’Angelo Russell
C – Timofey Mozgov

Randle and Myles Turner would be fun together in the frontcourt, but if the Pacers are undergoing a rebuild and trading George, it’d make little to no sense to re-sign unrestricted free agent Jeff Teague to a large contract — making the point guard spot a position of need.

That would make Russell their prime target as someone they’d try to pair with Turner for the long-term future. Deng would address another position of need on the wing with PG-13 gone, but it’s not a glaring need for a rebuilding team and Mozzy’s contract is a little bit cheaper.

The Lakers would lose a talented young player in Russell, who just averaged 15.6 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game despite only turning 21 in February. But that might be the price Magic Johnson is willing to pay to ensure Paul George ends up in Lakerland, especially since they could use the No. 2 pick on a new franchise point guard in Lonzo Ball.

A move like this would give the Lakers the inside track to re-sign Paul George next summer, and if they played their cards right by removing Deng’s deal from the books, they could be looking at adding someone like LeBron James or Russell Westbrook in 2018 free agency as well.

There are definitely worse fates than a core of Lonzo Ball, Jordan Clarkson, Paul George, LeBron James/Russell Westbrook, Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr. and Ivica Zubac, even if it means parting with D-Loading.

In order to sign George as a free agent, it’s also worth noting the Lakers would have to unload Mozgov or Deng to be able to offer him a max deal. That may be hard to accomplish elsewhere, making this deal with Indiana — a team more willing to take on a bad deal in a rebuild as long as it reels in a nice young piece — more defendable.

However, according to ESPN‘s Ramona Shelburne, the Lakers aren’t considering giving up any assets in a potential Paul George trade.

Russell and Randle would certainly qualify in that category, and it’s unlikely the Pacers would bite on an offer centered around Jordan Clarkson and the team’s late first-rounder in this year’s draft.

Lakers get SF – Paul George

Pacers get SG – Jordan Clarkson
No. 28 overall pick

It’s also worth noting that D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Paul George all have the same agent, making it that much harder for a possible trade to be facilitated when all three could be enjoying that L.A. lifestyle together soon anyway.

Most likely, the Lakers will do what they’ve always done, trusting that the prestige of the franchise and the charm of Magic Johnson will be enough a year from now without having to sacrifice any assets. It’s a bold and confident play, but when has this organization been anything but?

Paul George trade rumors

Dec 22, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Paul George (13) is guarded by Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Boston defeats Indiana 109-102. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

2. Boston Celtics

After trading the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft to move down to No. 3 and acquire another future first-rounder, the Boston Celtics are expected to make moves this summer and turn all those assets into a blockbuster acquisition (or two).

Though they earned the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference this year, Boston was served a painful reminder of how far it is from truly surpassing King James, being ousted from the conference finals in five quick games. A trade for Paul George helps close the gap.

In terms of what they’d have to give up, a number of picks could be on the table, since the Celtics have the No. 3 pick this year, all of their own picks moving forward and the following first-rounders tucked away in their back pocket:

  • 2018 Brooklyn Nets first round pick
  • 2018 Los Angeles Lakers first round pick (if it falls 2-5)
  • 2019 Sacramento Kings first round pick (if the Lakers pick doesn’t convey)
  • 2019 Los Angeles Clippers first round pick (top-14 protected)
  • 2019 Memphis Grizzlies first round pick

This year’s No. 3 pick and the Brooklyn pick are probably too valuable to offer when everyone knows how desperate the Pacers are right now, and Boston’s own first-rounders don’t project to be valuable enough as the team stays on the path to contention.

Two of those other three draft assets should be on the table, however.

To match salaries, a deal would probably start and end with Jae Crowder. Tyler Zeller‘s non-guaranteed $8 million salary might need to be included, along with a young throw-in like Terry Rozier.

Celtics get SF – Paul George

Pacers get SF – Jae Crowder
C – Tyler Zeller
PG – Terry Rozier
2 future 1st round picks

After trading out of the No. 1 pick and passing up the chance to draft Markelle Fultz, it’d be very odd if Danny Ainge wasn’t actively seeking out a superstar trade. That move signals the team wants to contend now, rather than wait out the Warriors and Cavs dynasties with Fultz, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and all those picks in tow.

Maybe the Celtics just weren’t sold on Fultz, but that would make them the exception around the league. A trade for PG-13 wouldn’t cost Boston an intrinsic part of its rotation aside from Crowder, who would be replaced by an All-Star two-way wing anyway.

Sure, it’d cost a potentially valuable pick or two, but the Celtics would still have plenty more to fall back on and the offers to Indy might not be pouring in. Whatever Boston offers might trump the draft compensation that’s on the table from other George suitors around the league.

George would take the pressure of Isaiah Thomas to score all the time and he’d provide the Celtics with one of about four players in the NBA who can relatively hold their own against LeBron James in a playoff series.

Is that enough to get Boston past the Cavaliers in the East? Maybe, maybe not. But a deal like this would also open up the possibility of signing another marquee player like Gordon Hayward or Blake Griffin in free agency, which would definitely turn the Celtics into a powerhouse.

The question the Celtics will face if they traded for George, especially if they failed to land someone like Hayward or Griffin afterward, is whether the team could take down LeBron in its first year together…and whether the culture would be enough to convince him to spurn Boston’s greatest nemesis if the Celtics fell short.

Sacrificing Crowder and those future first-rounders (and, by extension, this year’s No. 1 pick) would be a lot for a one-year rental, but Ainge has been posturing his team for years waiting for an opportunity like this. Plus, George’s asking price is significantly lower than Jimmy Butler‘s right now.

As for the Pacers, the Celtics have the most to offer in terms of rebuilding through youth around Myles Turner. Two future firsts — even without the Nets pick or this year’s No. 3 selection — is a great haul considering the circumstances, especially with Crowder’s 3-and-D skill-set and Rozier’s potential thrown in.

Paul George trade rumors

Apr 20, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives to the basket against Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) in game three of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Cleveland defeats Indiana 119-114. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

The Celtics have the flexibility to make the best offer for Love, and the Lakers could very easily enter the fray if they’re afraid of sitting on their hands and not being able to sign in free agency next summer.

But with Boston seemingly more infatuated with acquiring assets than using them, and Los Angeles confident in its ability to sign him as long as the Warriors continue to rule the league with an iron fist, the Cleveland Cavaliers might be the most desperate of all the Paul George trade suitors.

According to Wojnarowski, the Pacers have already discussed deals with several teams, with the Cavs headlining the list. Cleveland doesn’t have a first round pick to offer until 2021, and pieces like Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith or Channing Frye won’t interest Indiana in the slightest.

With LeBron James and Kyrie Irving being off limits, that really leaves only one trade candidate for a team strapped for cap space and in desperate need of a winning offseason to close the gap on the Warriors: Kevin Love.

Cavaliers get SF – Paul George

Pacers get PF – Kevin Love
C – Edy Tavares

The trade works straight up, though Edy Tavares would be thrown in as a sweetener. Indiana could push for Kay Felder or even the rights to Cedi Osman instead of Tavares, but they likely wouldn’t be sticklers on that part of the deal if those inclusions cross the line.

Either way, the Cavaliers add a versatile and dynamic two-way wing in their quest to upend Golden State’s reign. His perimeter shooting, ability to attack the basket and defense would make him a potential better fit than Love come playoff time, even if PG-13 and LeBron play the same position.

With whispers about the King heading west to the Lakers as his 2018 free agency approaches, the Cavaliers have to keep him happy. Trading for George would do that, and a team in Cleveland’s position has to do everything it can to win titles before James’ prime is over.

To that end, even the risk of a one-year Paul George rental is peanuts compared to the threat of losing LeBron again next summer.

This move would force the King to play at the 4, where he is most effective but also gets worn out quicker. However, the Cavs could breeze through the regular season only employing him at power forward on occasion to save his body for another run to the Finals.

In a potential rematch with the Dubs, LeBron would no longer have to exert himself to such Herculean degrees, since George could take on the task of guarding Kevin Durant and leave the King to doing what he does for the offense.

That would force KD to guard George on the other end, and Draymond Green would have to check LeBron. That’d already be making strides in terms of all the mismatches Cleveland had to cope with in this year’s Finals.

As for the Pacers, they’d be getting a legitimate star to pair with Turner in the frontcourt. Love is still only 28, and for all the criticism about his defensive shortcomings and his fit on the Cavs, people forget he averaged an absurd 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game the last season he was “the guy.”

His three-point touch would help space the floor in Indiana and he’d definitely the best — and most realistic — player the Pacers could get in a Paul George trade right now.

However, if the Pacers are trading their franchise superstar, it would most likely be to undergo a full-scale rebuild through the draft and youth — neither of which the Cavaliers can offer. That leaves them susceptible to being one-upped by Boston or L.A. at the trade table, but if neither one of those teams jumps in, Cleveland could very easily emerge as the No. 1 suitor for PG-13.

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