Paul George’s fate with the Indiana Pacers may very well be decided by whether or not the 26-year-old superstar forward makes any of the All-NBA teams voted on by the national media and press roughly two months from now— an accolade that could result in George receiving a $200 million-plus lucrative maximum-contract from the Pacers, and only the Pacers, as early as this summer.
If George does not receive All-NBA honors for his 2016-17 campaign, it goes without saying that the odds of him remaining in Indiana are slim-to-none. George signed a max deal with the Pacers prior to the 2013-14 season that included a player option for 2018 in which he can opt out of, making him a free agent.
According to Scott Agness of Vigilant Sports, the NBA had planned to announce the All-NBA honors on June 26 — a few days concluding draft night. However, Agness reiterated that “it’s not immediately clear when the All-NBA teams will be announced, but it will be before the draft.”
In case you’re wondering why the league will inform the Pacers and George regarding whether or not he’s been voted to any of the three teams prior to the draft, it’s quite simple: if not voted to All-NBA honors, George loses out on the roughly $70 million in extra money that the Pacers could offer him in the scenario of a max contract, an amount that any other team cannot offer. In the instance that he would not receive the honors, opposing teams can offer George a contract similar to that of the Pacers’ non-max offering — which would give him even more reasoning to either bolt in free agency after next season or simply ask to be traded.
The narrative surrounding the Pacers’ 2016-17 season involved changing the teams identity and bringing in some new faces that would fit team president Larry Bird’s desires of a small, fast-paced offense that would help accommodate George’s game. The new roster put together never panned out as envisioned prior to this past season, and saw Indiana finishing with a 42-40 record and a first-round sweep at the hands of LeBron James and the No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers.
Given how this past season panned out, it’s hard to say whether or not Bird can persuade George that the Pacers are trending upwards and improving, rather than in the decline. Throughout the season, it had been speculated that George had his eye out for the Los Angeles Lakers as a potential suitor via a trade or as a free agency target. On the morning of the NBA trade deadline back in February, Sam Amick of USA Today provided an interesting tweet regarding George’s interest in joining his hometown team in L.A.
I repeat: Paul George - barring a title chance in Indy - is hell-bent on heading for Laker Land. This message has been sent throughout NBA.— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) February 23, 2017
In essence, the league is notifying Bird and the Pacers of George’s All-NBA status prior to draft night so if George does not make any of the teams, the Pacers can begin communications with other teams in any potential draft-day trades if they feel that their superstar talent could possibly leave in free agency.
The Lakers will likely have a top-three draft selection in what is a top-heavy class loaded with a lot of talent. If the Pacers do look to shop George prior to draft day, the Lakers have a few assets that may catch Bird’s eye, including their first-round pick. But for now, the Pacers will have to wait to hear from the league regarding the status of the All-NBA selections to see what the future of the Pacers franchise holds.