Paul George tells the Pacers he’s leaving, now it’s Indiana’s move

Reports indicate that Paul George has informed the Indiana Pacers that he intends to leave as a free agent next summer. The Pacers now have to decide how to deal with the anticipated loss of their star player.

The mystery that has long been on the minds of Indiana Pacers fans has now been solved: Paul George plans to opt out of his contract next summer and sign with another franchise.

Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical broke the news Sunday that George informed the Pacers through his agent that the All-Star forward plans to leave Indiana next summer.

The report goes on to indicate that George, a California native, would prefer to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers when he opts out of his current deal a year from now.

Paul George’s timeline assumes that he will still be a member of the Indiana Pacers after the 2017-18 season. However, now that this bombshell has been dropped, the odds that George will be traded have skyrocketed.

George reportedly made this move so the Pacers can plan accordingly. Now that George’s cards are on the table, Indiana has the advantage of deciding how to proceed without any guesswork as to Paul George’s future after 2017-18.

The revelation that Paul George will not be with the Pacers beyond next season could potentially impact the team in a number of areas.

In terms of free agency and the draft, Indiana now knows it will have a huge hole to fill on its roster when George exits. However, how it will handle that is up for debate.

The Pacers have never been willing to “tank” or enter into a total rebuild, but if they were ever going to consider such an approach, this is the time to do it.

Indiana could look at this as an opportunity to take the long view and try to build a team from the ground up that could possibly contend in a few years.

Rebuilding in this manner would steer the Pacers primarily toward young, high-upside players (via trades, free agency and the draft). If Indiana is serious about wanting to compete for a championship, this is the only chance it has to make that happen.

If the Pacers maintain their current mode of trying to compete as well as they can each season, then the strategy changes with a greater emphasis on veteran performers.

In this scenario, Indiana would try to replace George and add other pieces to keep the team from taking a step back due to George’s impending departure.

The path that is chosen depends on the ultimate goal of the franchise.

If continually being average-to-good is satisfactory, then the latter approach makes sense. If competing for an NBA title is truly the goal, then this team-building strategy will not succeed.

In the short-term, it may seem like a no-brainer to trade Paul George before he leaves on his own accord next summer — but that’s not entirely true.

Given the situation, George will not command anything near equal value in the trade market. So, if no one is willing to give up much to obtain George via trade, the Pacers could just let him leave next summer without compensation.

Trading George appears to be the best overall option, but if the franchise is going to start over anyway, letting him walk for nothing is one way to jumpstart a total rebuild.

After all, the idea of this type of roster construction isn’t to be a little bad, it’s to be very bad.

The Indiana Pacers are now in a position where they are aware that Paul George’s days in Indiana are numbered. How they choose to tackle that sensitive issue will impact the franchise for years to come.

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