Paul George has reportedly informed the Pacers that he'll leave in free agency at the conclusion of the 2018 season, and his preferred destination is in Los Angeles as a member of the Lakers. Indiana wil almost certainly try to trade George before the season begins, and Magic Johnson should already be on the phone with Kevin Pritchard to try to acquire the All-Star.
There won't be a ton of teams willing to give up serious assets in exchange for George, because he can simply leave after one season, and he seems to already have his new team picked out. But if you're the Lakers, why take a chance?
It's easy to see a club like Cleveland going all-in on an offer for George to try to win a championship next season, and if he decides he likes contending for titles alongside LeBron James more than he likes L.A., the Lakers will have missed a golden opportunity to finally add an established All-Star to the young core that's already in place.
The Pacers may not like any of these, but here are five trades the Lakers should immediately offer in exchange for George.
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Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and a future first-round pick
The Lakers probably won't be willing to part with D'Angelo Russell or Brandon Ingram in any trade for George, but some of their young talent might be in play if they're concerned about the Pacers All-Star playing somewhere else next season and then changing his mind about Los Angeles.
The most enticing package for the Pacers (and one the Lakers might actually be willing to agree to) would be Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and a future first-round pick. Indiana gets two young and talented players to immediately begin their rebuild in earnest, and a draft pick to help continue it down the line.
It might be bordering on too much for L.A. to give up, but star players have been unwilling to come to the Lakers in free agency, so they should probably do everything in their power to grab the first legitimate one to show some real interest.
Luol Deng and the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft
Deng is a 32-year-old veteran who averaged 7.6 points per game last season, and he's under contract for three more seasons with $54 million in guaranteed salary. The Pacers would be doing the Lakers a huge favor by taking that contract off their hands, so it would come with it a steep price: the No. 2 pick in this week's draft.
This one depends on how desperate the Lakers are to get out from under Deng's deal, and how much they value the talent available after Markelle Fultz goes No. 1 overall as everyone expects. If they're at all iffy on the pick, it would be a fair price to pay for both adding George and freeing up a ton of salary cap space.
Timofey Mozgov, Julius Randle and a future first-round pick
The Deng deal was bad, and the Lakers gave a similarly brutal one to Timofey Mozgov, who's guaranteed $48 million over the next three seasons. In exchange for taking on that ridiculous contract, the Pacers would get Randle and a future first-round pick.
Randle started 73 games for L.A. last season, and averaged 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists in just 28.8 minutes per game. He's a solid young piece, but again, L.A. is going to need to give up either talent, picks or both to rid itself of horrendous contracts.
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Corey Brewer, Jordan Clarkson and two future first-round picks
Brewer is a good locker-room guy and a veteran player who can still help on the defensive end of the floor, and is on a reasonable contract for about $7.5 million that expires after the 2018 season. Clarkson, meanwhile, is 24 years old and averaged 14.7 points in 29.2 minutes primarily in a reserve role last season. He's the type of player you can build with, and the future draft picks won't mean a whole lot to a Lakers team that might be able to add an additional star or two once George is already in place.
Al Jefferson gets added to the deal in exchange for Mozgov, Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.
The Lakers could ease the shock of the Mozgov contract by offering to take back Jefferson's as part of the deal. The 32-year-old big man is still capable of getting you a bucket in the post in a halfcourt set, but at $9.7 million for next season, the suddenly rebuilding Pacers no longer need his services. L.A. also gives Indiana Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., the springy forward who averaged 7.1 points and 5.9 rebounds in 22.9 minutes per game in his second NBA season.
The Pacers may ultimately not like any of these deals, and L.A. may be stubborn in making them if the team truly believes that George's mind is already made up to join the Lakers in 2018. But there's a real risk of other factors swaying his decision over the course of a full NBA season, and the Lakers would be wise to mitigate that as much as possible by at least attempting to acquire the proven All-Star as quickly as possible, as long as the price is right.