Five logical trade destinations for Pacers’ Paul George

DeMarre Carroll guards Paul George (Frank Gunn/CP)

The worst-kept NBA secret has finally been exposed: Paul George doesn’t want to be an Indiana Pacer and has no plans to re-sign.

It’s not often that four time all-stars in their prime are openly dangled in trade talks.

After putting up a career-high 23.7 points in 2016-17 George is likely to have a long list of suitors. However, he has only one year left on his deal and has been linked to a return home to Los Angeles, so any team trading for George would be doing so with risk attached to the transaction.

With the upcoming draft as a deadline so Indiana can maximize return, the George sweepstakes should be fast and furious.

Here are five likely trade destinations for one of the best two-way players in the NBA:

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
The enemy of your enemy is your friend.

Separately, LeBron James and Paul George aren’t beating the Warriors any time soon. But they have a chance if they try to tackle the juggernaut together.

It has already been reported that trade talks between the two teams have commenced. James and George are workout partners in the summer and it would benefit both of them to play with and not against each other in the East. After losing in the Finals last year, the first person Draymond Green reached out to was Kevin Durant. A Cavs deal with the Pacers would be LeBron saying checkmate and calling on George to help dethrone the Warriors’ super team. The Cavaliers would most likely have to send Kevin Love or Tristan Thompson the other way but neither would be as valuable during a fourth consecutive NBA Finals matchup against the Warriors.

Defensively, George would give James a break from guarding Kevin Durant. On offence, he’d force Klay Thompson to guard him allowing Kyrie Irving to get busy one-on-one against Stephen Curry with no help. George definitely wouldn’t re-sign with Cleveland until LeBron did the same so this would be the ultimate all-or-nothing move. It’s important to remember Cavaliers GM David Griffin still doesn’t have a contract extension from the Cavaliers. Owner Dan Gilbert has yet to give a GM a second contract since owning the Cavaliers. One way to get your boss to stop dragging his feet on signing a cheque is to hold a franchise-altering move over his head.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS 
Of course, the Lakers would prefer to wait for George to come to them in free agency. But if you can secure him now why take the risk?

A bird in hand is better than two in the bush. Which might be why Magic Johnson is trying to acquire another first round pick. They are not interested in parting with any of their young core to get George, which is the mistake the New York Knicks made when they didn’t wait for Carmelo Anthony to hit the open market. But that doesn’t mean they can’t trade a young player they don’t yet have.

Yes, Lonzo Ball would be good playing alongside George but so much can happen in a year. If George makes all-NBA next year the Pacers could offer him around $70 million more than the next highest bidder. Is that enough to make George change his mind about wanting to leave “nap town” for Hollywood? The Lakers can avoid the uncertainty and get a deal for George done now if they offered the Pacers the second pick in the draft. Once they have George they can immediately sign him to an extension an finally have the top level free agent acquisition the team has badly needed after striking out on July 1st in recent years.

The Lakers still would have a young point guard in D’Angelo Russell who would look better paired with Brandon Ingram and George on the wings. Remember those LeBron James to the Lakers in 2018 rumours Jalen Rose started during the NBA Finals? They become much more palatable if George is already playing at Staples when LeBron becomes a free agent.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Blake Griffin has not played more than 70 games in a season since 2013-14 and is a free agent this summer. It would be great if the Clippers could trade him to Indiana for George but would he agree to that?

Chris Paul has been openly flirting with the San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets and Lakers. Doc Rivers wants to keep his team in tact but there are no guarantee his free agent stars are so inclined. If you traded for George would that sweeten the pot enough to lure them back.

George wants to be in LA and he can be billed as the reason the Clippers finally got things right. The Clippers don’t have many assets to go back the other way in trade but a deal starting with DeAndre Jordan would get the ball rolling. Jordan and Myles Turner would be an awkward fit together offensively but there are not many teams willing to give up an all-star under contract for an all-star with an expiring contract. The Clips would.

BOSTON CELTICS 

Boston has a battery of future draft picks, which is currency the Pacers need in their rebuild around Myles Turner. The Celtics have Philadelphia’s 2017 1st round pick, their own 2018 first round pick, the Los Angeles Lakers 2018 1st round pick, the Brooklyn Nets 2018 1st round pick, their own 2019 first round pick, the Los Angeles Clippers 2019 1st round pick, Sacramento Kings 2019 1st round pick and Memphis Grizzlies 2019 first round pick.

Boston could draft Josh Jackson at number three this year and be happy. But the absolute best-case scenario comp for Jackson as a pro would be Paul George. Why not just sign the sure thing now while your team is already a NBA championship contender? Boston was interested in George at the trade deadline but the price was too steep. Now the price has come down since George has been open about the fact he’s leaving in a year. They’ve already recouped value from winning the lottery by trading with the Philadelphia 76ers. Here is the best part: The Celtics still have the ability to sign Gordon Hayward in free agency.

A starting line-up of Isaiah Thomas, Hayward, Paul George, Al Horford and whoever at the five would automatically be considered better than Cleveland and a realistic foil for Golden State.

TORONTO RAPTORS 

The Raptors could put together a package of Norman Powell, Jonas Valanciunas and a future pick or two to sweeten the pot.

That is costly for a rental. But acquiring George would give some all-star insurance in the event Kyle Lowry left in free agency. With the Philadelphia 76ers out of the sweepstakes and the Lakers expected to draft Lonzo Ball, Lowry’s price might come down with less of a market. With a resigned Lowry and George acquired via trade, the Raptors would boast three all-stars and could challenge the Cavaliers’ three all-star trio of James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.

Their cap situation would be tough and it would hinder their long-term flexibility but Masai Ujiri spoke fondly of the risk Alex Anthopoulos took in renting David Price for essentially one stretch run. PG13 could be his David Price even if he’s aware of the risk of George leaving for LA.

Another factor to consider is DeMar DeRozan and George are good friends and California natives. DeRozan fell in love with Canada and despite the allure of his hometown Lakers in free agency last summer wanted to be in the North. If paired together DeRozan would have a season to recruit and convince George to do the same.