For the past few days, we have heard a lot about Paul George’s interest in the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s difficult to get too excited in these rumors as the Lakers are the hub of such speculation, often without any result.
But the latest news nugget regarding George’s future in Indiana is a big one and it could point to more credibility.
According to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski on a recent podcast, the Lakers were advised to not move any of their young players in exchange for George at the trade deadline on Thursday. Instead, they were told to focus on wooing the star forward in free agency in 2018. (h/t Anthony Irwin of Silver Screen & Roll for the transcript):
“The direction I was told the Lakers got here in the last couple days was: ‘Hey don’t gut your team to go get Paul George’. Magic Johnson did lob a call to Larry Bird. But if you’re the Lakers and you don’t have a tremendous amount of assets — they have some young players that they hope will develop. They’re going to sit back and wait to sign him as a free agent. They’ll have cap space in 2018, because if they were to try to trade for him, well, they were going to have to give up the core of their team and then Paul George, he’s going to have no one to play with.”
There are a few notable things here to discuss.
First, the Lakers made the right choice to not mortgage their future in trading for a star. Even after Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak were fired (reportedly in part due to not being able to secure a trade for DeMarcus Cousins), the new Lakers’ front office stood pat and did not make a hasty decision.
The second, and maybe more important, thing to take note of is George’s interest in the Lakers. Depending on who this Lakers adviser was, this report could validate previous ones insisting that George is “hell-bent” on a move to LA. Keeping the young core instead of trading it for PG13 means he would have more help once he potentially makes the move, whether in the form of more developed young players or assets that can be used to bring in a second star.
Also notable is that if George is traded, he can no longer make the 35% max as a designated veteran. As it stands now, he will need to make an All-NBA team either this season or next (or win MVP or DPOY next year) to get that contract from Indiana. But if George is unable to make the extra money, there is no point in him getting traded early.
As usual, it’s important to take these reports with a grain of salt. Even if this is true (and Woj is as reputable as it gets), it can have multiple meanings and implications. More importantly, a lot can change in the NBA within a year and a half. But for now, we can be #CautiouslyOptimistic about the chances of signing Paul George in free agency.