Ranking Paul George’s 30 potential destinations in the 2018 offseason
The season wasn’t supposed to end in the first round of the playoffs for Paul George. He went to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the hopes of expanding his horizons other than going to the L.A. Lakers in the 2018 offseason.
The Lakers weren’t willing to give up any of their young players to acquire him from the Indiana Pacers last summer and so George had to go somewhere else before he could become a free agent.
The Thunder went ahead and traded for him even without the guarantee of re-signing with them in the offseason. But after a semi-successful 2017-18 season, OKC faced the well-coached Utah Jazz and rising star Donovan Mitchell early in the postseason and that doomed their chances of advancing to the next round.
With an early exit from the playoffs, almost everyone believes that this has soured George’s outlook on returning to Oklahoma City when he opts out of the final year of his contract worth $20.7 million in the summer. It’s almost a given that, despite George saying all the right things during interviews, the only way he was considering an OKC comeback is if they had come close to the Finals or even the outside chance that they had won a championship this year.
Who wouldn’t want return to a team that just won the title?
That doesn’t mean that it’s 100 percent guaranteed that he’ll walk away from the Thunder. But the team would have had a better chance of re-signing the talented forward to a max contract had the Thunder advanced to the Western Conference Finals.
George will be exploring all his options this summer and here is what I believe is each team’s chance at signing him to a contract. This includes not only those with cap space but also those that don’t assuming that they can get rid of bad contracts and give George an offer sheet in the offseason. There’s also some teams that might be able to do a sign-and-trade with OKC for his services, too.
30. Indiana Pacers
As improbable as an OKC return appears to be for George, an Indiana Pacers reunion is practically impossible.
The team has moved on nicely with Victor Oladipo taking over from George as the Pacers’ newfound star. The two play different positions, which means a partnership on the court between them isn’t going to be a problem. However, George burned the bridge that bound him to Indiana when he said last year that he wanted out and the organization complied with his request.
To make this work, it will take a little bit of humbling on George’s part as well as a change in his desire to play in his hometown of L.A. or elsewhere. The Pacers are going to be lethal with George joining a team that nearly brought the King of Cleveland to his knees in a 7-game series in this year’s playoffs. Having George in the lineup will almost ensure that it happens next season.
This is all fantasy for now with George set on looking for greener pastures elsewhere.
And the Pacers don’t appear to be too interested in getting back their former star either.
In a recent interview on ESPN 1070 that was transcribed by USA TODAY’s Dakota Crawford, Pacers president Kevin Pritchard may have taken a shot at George when asked if they would consider pursuing him in free agency.
“I would want to know first that he would fit us,” Pritchard said. “We’re different now, Dan. One of the things we’re about, we don’t care about big names, we don’t care about big personalities, we don’t care about big brands. What we care about is being humble …
“Anybody that fits in, yeah we’re interested … I can’t talk on specific players. But if they don’t fit that, I’m not interested. It’s that simple.
“When we look at trades, free agency and the draft, we want those kind of guys. The guys willing to do the little stuff. Everybody is talented in this league … we think our biggest talent was we played the right way.”
Sounds like George will have to look elsewhere for employment next season.
29. Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings are going nowhere next season, but they seem to have an affinity for signing former All-Stars to contracts (Vince Carter, Zach Randolph). They have cap room next summer plus a lottery pick that’s sure to excite the fan base.
With De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Zach Randolph, and the aforementioned 2018 NBA Draft pick in tow, things are looking up for the Kings. Just don’t expect George to be interested, though.