The Paul George trade rumors are flying around and I’m putting on my tin foil hat to dig deep into some of the obvious and not-so- obvious places George could be traded. When you sit down to stew with your friends about Paul George’s back-stabbing decision, you can at least turn the conversation to these crazy trade proposals.
There are nine teams that could be involved in a Paul George trade, whether directly or through a third team. Indiana would be wise to remain patient and wait to trade George until after free agency (look to Kevin Love in 2014). Teams will be trading for George on a one year rental but they would also retain his bird rights allowing them to offer him an extra contract year and $30-35 million more in guaranteed money.
Indiana should get a decent offer for George if Kevin Pritchard doesn’t panic - I don’t think he will. Nothing in the NBA happens in a vacuum. Gordon Hayward, Chris Paul, and Blake Griffin’s futures will certainly factor into what teams pursue George.
While each trade below could make sense, ultimately the Lakers and Celtics control George’s future because they can offer the best assets. Lastly, as of 9:30 on June 20, the Lakers are engaging in trade talks for George which could render this article meaningless.
But let’s ignore that last point and dive into the trade packages NBA teams could put together for Paul George.
THE FRONT RUNNERS
I can hear every Boston fan screaming that the Celtics don’t want to trade their core away for Paul George, but hear me out.
The only way this trade happens is if Gordon Hayward signs with Boston in free agency. If Hayward signs in free agency, then the Celtics can’t use their cap space to trade for George and therefore must match the salaries to get him. The Al Horford signing isn’t looking great, now is it?
But if the Celtics manage to get Hayward and George they can create a lineup with Thomas-Hayward-Brown-George-Horford. Boston now has one year to convince George that they can win with a lineup that includes four all-stars.
Indiana on the other hand gets exactly what they want, two quality starters and two young players. Indiana can remain competitive next season and use the 2017 draft pick to build for the future. An Indiana Pacers lineup might look something like Stephenson-Bradley-Crowder-Young- Turner.
Los Angeles Lakers:
Indiana receives: Luol Deng, Julius Randle, and #2 2017 first round pick
This is the most likely trade. It makes sense for both teams. Indiana gets the young assets (#2 pick and Randle) plus a veteran player in locker room. The Lakers give up a lot by making this trade, but they’d benefit too.
Los Angeles can dump a contract that opens more cap space for the next two summers. This trade prevents George from going to another team and deciding he wants to stay instead of returning home to a Lakers team that will probably win less than 30 games next season.
**If Indiana makes this trade they should trade Thaddeus Young. Our friends at 8points9seconds have been claiming for months that Young would be flipped for a first-round pick to a contender if George is traded. **
THE THREE TEAM TRADES:
If Indiana gets rid of Paul George, they should rebuild. I’m not sure they will but it would make sense for Indiana to go young. If the Cavaliers want to acquire George they’ll have to get a third team involved because neither has the assets to straight up trade for George if Indiana wants to go young. That’s where the Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets come in.
Cleveland Cavaliers via Denver Nuggets
Indiana receives: Gary Harris, Emmanuel Mudiay, and #13 2017 first round pick.
Denver receives: Kevin Love
Denver would have to clear some cap space, but should be able to by cutting Mike Miller. The trade is only possible because of Denver’s huge desire to bring in a star (look at the Paul George offer in February). Denver also has a bunch of young guards which means they can afford to get rid of two of them.
Indiana makes this trade because it brings them three young talented players who could become future starters. Harris is from the Indy area which allows the Pacers to continue their trend of hometown talent. It helps that Harris is a talented shooting guard who shot 42 percent from three last year.
Emmanuel Mudiay, who has played two seasons, has shown signs of being a quality player. Mudiay is entering his third season which is usually the season that young players make their biggest jump, i.e. Paul George. It also helps that the Pacers will get a first-round pick.
Cleveland of course gets Paul George!!!
Cleveland via Phoenix Suns:
I’m going to be honest with this one…I saw it online from Bill Simmons and it intrigued me. The Pacers would acquire a solid point guard who might pair nicely with Myles Turner, while getting two young talented players.
Both Dragon Bender and Marquese Chriss’ ceilings still aren’t set. Both played limited minutes last season. Bender and Chriss basically become the picks Indiana could acquire and maybe one of them turns into a star. Bledsoe would always allow Indiana to remain competitive.
Phoenix makes this deal only if they can draft Lonzo Ball or another point guard with their #4 pick. The Suns are now able to pair Kevin Love with Devin Booker, Alex Len, and their first-round pick. Phoenix will still have another point guard in Brandon Knight.
The Clippers are the most interesting team. If Paul George wanted to go to any Los Angeles team and win it would seem like he would have of a better chance with the Clippers. However, Los Angeles’ only asset is the ability to sign and trade Blake Griffin because they can offer him 5 years at $180 million which might be intriguing to player who can’t stay healthy.
Griffin would have to really want the money to agree to a sign-and-trade to Phoenix or Denver, but who knows? If Griffin is willing to do a sign-and-trade I’d expect the safe offers that the Pacers would get in a Kevin Love-Paul George three team trade.
DeAndre Jordon could also work in a three team trade. I’m just not sure he gets enough assets in return for a George trade.
INTERESTED BUT HAVE NO ASSESTS
I only put them here because of David Aldridge’s report but unless Bradley Beal or John Wall is on the table they Wizards don’t have the cap space or picks to trade for George. Sorry, Washington.
LEVERAGE TRADE TEAMS (UNREALISTIC BUT INTERESTING):
Each of two teams below probably don’t have the assets to acquire George but Indiana will certainly listen. All three teams are competitive and adding George could put these teams in championship contention. Indiana should probably use the offers from these teams to leverage the Lakers.
Indiana receives: Eric Gordon, Patrick Beverly, Clint Capella, 2019 First Round Pick, 2021 First Round Pick
It's the return home of Eric Gordon. Houston and Daryl Morey are undoubtedly thinking up a way to trade for George. When is Morey not involved when a star is available? Do Paul George and James Harden fit together? No, but Morey will try it.
This trade probably makes more sense if the Pacers can turn Beverly and Capella into draft picks, but for now this trade might be the perfect leverage trade. For some reason, NBA players love going to Houston. I hear the nightlife is great. The trade would certainly scare the pants off the Lakers (sorry, I’m not allowed to swear).
The future picks are probably worthless because they’ll be in the mid 20’s, but Capella and Beverly are quality players who could be traded to contending teams or be worked into a system with Indiana. They’re also both on decent contracts.
The Eric Gordon return only makes sense because it makes me happy. I went to the same high school as Gordon and watched him torch teams in his incredible senior year at North Central High School. I also occasionally see Gordon at my hometown gym. I saw him one time. I really did!!
This is the most outrageous but admittedly interesting trade proposal. Indiana, just like with Houston, might not take this offer but they could use it as leverage. However, the Pacers could also package all the picks to move in the draft if the trade happens this week and some talented player falls outside the top 8 (maybe Dennis Smith?).
Portland would love to do this trade but it would also destroy their salary cap. Luckily their owner, Paul Allen, is a gazillionaire so money is not an issue. C.J. McCollum has also publically been pushing Portland to either sign or trade for Paul George. George fits into the Trailblazers system nicely and probably makes them the second or third best team in the West.
End note: I have a Pacers podcast on the Locked on Podcast network. If you love everything Pacers take a listen. I did one with fellow Indy Cornrows writer Caitlin Cooper on Sunday that was really good.