With the stunning news in the waning moment before free agency on Friday that saw Paul George traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the saga between George and the Lakers is put on delay.
The move pairs up two like free agents, and potential Laker targets, in the 2018 class with George and Westbrook. However, per Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report, it appears the Lakers may only get a shot at one of the two.
Positioned to make a run at home-court advantage in the playoffs, the Thunder share with Westbrook the challenge of convincing George to stay. But the idea that George and Westbrook will both want to stay in Oklahoma City is still a long shot given George’s stated intention to sign with his hometown Los Angeles Lakers in 2018.
As much as the Lakers understand LeBron James or Westbrook could come with George as a two-pronged free-agent power socket in 2018, multiple league sources pegged it as more likely than not that Westbrook would stay in OKC, where they’re figuring out how much they’ll pay in luxury tax as opposed to if they will.
Westbrook is coming off an MVP season for the Thunder and is the face of the franchise in the wake of Kevin Duran’ts departure last summer. Eligible for a similar “supermax” deal that Steph Curry signed with the Warriors this summer for over $200 million, it’ll be a hard sell to convince Westbrook to leave that money on the table.
George, however, has long been considered a rental for any team that trades for him. While it was reported George would be open to re-signing with a team he was traded to, that was contingent on being dealt to a title-contending team and the Thunder are not that.
However, should George and Westbrook decide they would like to team up next summer, it’s more likely they do it in L.A. and not in Oklahoma City.
It’s more likely the two will agree it’s easier to sell a star teammate on LA than small-market America. David West was the best free agent the Pacers could attract to join George.
And if George and Westbrook really hit it off this season and want to keep playing together, the Lakers will have that max salary-cap space for two stars a year from now and try to collect the big pot.
The Lakers have remained remarkably quiet during free agency so far, only reaching out to a small handful of free agents as they remain focused on keeping their “sacred cap space” for 2018 in which they could offer two max deals.
Will George and Westbrook be the recipient of those deals? We’re only 364 days from finding out.