Last year had you told me Paul George was re-signing with Oklahoma City after his trade from Indiana, I would have called you crazy. Originally the Pacers-Thunder trade felt like Indiana was selling low on George but it made sense because he was going to sign with Los Angeles the following July 1.
Kevin Pritchard settled for Oklahoma City’s offer because the Lakers’ best trades package was the 27th and 28th 2017 draft picks, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson.
But now it appears the Pacers won the trade, no matter what happens with the rest of George’s career. Indiana traded a 28-year-old All-NBA and All-Defense player for a 26-year-old player with the same accolades. On top of that Indiana got a young center/forward who will be a critical piece in the future, whether that be for the Pacers or as a trade asset.
Victor Oladipo is just hitting his prime, his best seasons are ahead of him. Combine those with his clear desire to play in Indiana and comfortability in the spotlight as a leader and he becomes the perfect building block for the future.
George is also a great player -- borderline top 10 sometimes -- but clearly he is more comfortable in a secondary role than as a team leader. George’s best season came as the wide-eyed younger talent looking up to leaders like David West and Roy Hibbert.
He clearly prefers to play hard on defense, get some opportunities on offense and defer the spotlight and responsibility to another player.
It’s important to remeber George suffered a life-altering injury that easily could of ended his career. The fact that he signed for $137 million guaranteed after that is incredible. But his last two years in Indiana after the injury just didn’t feel the same.
Oklahoma City should be happy with George because he’s a great number two to Russell Westbrook in the way Kevin Durant never was or wanted to be.
But Pacer fans shouldn’t be jealous, because under George Indiana was destined for first- and second-round playoff exits with no real moves to get out of a cycle of mediocrity, especially if he signed the designated player extension for almost $44 million per year.
The Thunder will find themselves in a similar situation as long as Durant is a Warrior, Lebron James plays for the Lakers and James Harden plays for the Rockets. Not mention the Trailblazers, Pelicans, Jazz, Timberwolves and Nuggets, all of whom have multiple All-Stars.
Oklahoma City gets the opportunity to be, at best, the fourth-best team in a conference all while paying a luxury tax bill that could cost $250 million next year.
The other part that should make Pacer fans happy is the Lakers’ own hubris came back to bite them. Not only did they low-ball Indiana last summer because they were certain George was coming in 2018, Magic Johnson had to pay a fine for tampering.
If the Lakers had offered Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball the Pacers probably would’ve taken that deal over the Thunder’s Oladipo-Sabonis offering. They even might have taken Luol Deng’s awful contract as well, just to acquire a young asset.
But at the end of the day, the Pacers might be in the best position of all three teams involved in the George situation to win their conference and compete for a championship in the post-Golden State era.
And best of all? The George saga is finally over, never to be spoken of again.