Paul George is sitting there for the swiping.
The superstar wing among the league’s ten best players “has informed the Indiana Pacers that he plans to become a free agent in the summer of 2018 and will leave the franchise – preferably for the Los Angeles Lakers,” according to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
What this does is further extinguishes any leverage the Pacers have in a potential trade. Don’t get me wrong, Magic Johnson and the Lakers can pull a Knicks and trade assets for George now but this would be a repeat of the Carmelo Anthony trade from Denver and destroy Los Angeles’ best chance of contending in the future. They’d be fools and they just might be foolish enough to pull the trigger.
More realistically, either teams sit tight and allow the elite wing to sign with his hometown purple and gold next summer (which would make things kind of awkward in Indy) or one fearless franchise led by a man with brass balls is going to toss the Pacers a bone in the form of an asset or two and bet that their alluring city, elite coach, and next season’s performance will be enough to force George to reconsider his Lakers-or-die mantra (if the reports are truly legitimate).
That team sounds a lot like the Miami Heat. I actually wrote about the Paul George-to-Miami scenario already but it included another domino whale: Gordon Hayward.
The thinking is while Hayward is considering Miami now, having George on the roster for next season surrounded by an already talented core of players along with a great coach would significantly boost their chances, even if it means Hayward signing a shorter deal in case George does leave. Could Justise Winslow, Miami’s No. 14 pick, and another mid-to-late first-rounder (can be acquired in a trade for Tyler Johnson) be enough for Indy? I think so. It actually might be too much.
The only other team I think that may make the George play is Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics, as they are currently drowning in draft picks. But a more sensible target for them is Jimmy Butler, who may not be as good as George but is locked down for two seasons at a value rate and more likely to commit long-term.
Besides, Danny’s balls aren’t as big as Pat’s.
So I’d fully expect Pat to go full throttle in George’s direction next week — they can only truly trade their pick on draft night — and attempt to secure the Heat’s biggest whale since LeBron James.
Is it risky? Yes. Is it crazy? Perhaps. But it’s got Pat written all over it.
Those adjectives also could’ve also been used to describe his plan for Summer 2010 before the fact. Buckle up.