There are very few players better than Paul George of the Indiana Pacers, and it is not often that a player of his caliber gets traded, which makes it surprising that Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Pacers are exploring the trade market for him. However, that is not the most important part of the report. Woj also mentioned a certain risk for all teams interested in trading for George: the Lakers.
“For teams considering a trade for George, here’s the risk: As a free agent in the summer of 2018, he has considered re-signing with Indiana or joining his hometown Los Angeles Lakers, sources tell The Vertical.
Teams trading for George run the risk of losing the four-time All-Star to a Lakers franchise that will have the salary-cap space to sign him in 2018. The Lakers’ hiring of Magic Johnson as president of basketball operations will be an interesting twist to George’s free-agent recruitment, given that Johnson has been something of a George family icon going back to George’s childhood in nearby Palmdale, Calif.”
Let me make this perfectly clear. The Lakers are (in all likelihood) NOT trading for Paul George. The only reason this is news is because the most reliable reporter in the game said George has interest in coming home in the summer of 2018.
George would be a great get for the Lakers and there are reasons to think they can get him. As Woj said, George is an LA boy and was a Laker fan growing up. Kobe was his favorite player growing up, and before his last free agency he even said “Of course it would be tough (to say no to Kobe). You’re talking about playing [at] home.” And while I am not a fan of Magic taking over, I have no doubt that he will be a great pull during free agency. Lastly, D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle share an agent with George. In fact, George praised the Lakers young bucks this summer during their time with the US Select Team: “I think LA’s two young bucks— Julius and D’Angelo— and Devin, I think those three guys, we got after them. They made turnovers, they looked bad at times, but what I like most about them is they weren’t scared.”
There are also reasons to think the Lakers won’t land George. Whoever he ends up with will offer him more money than the Lakers can, and a lot can change in a year and a a half. The Lakers’ young players could develop more slowly than expected. Maybe he ends up on the Celtics and they defeat Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals. That would pretty much assure he stays in the dreaded green. However, the fact that his mind could change between now and 2018 doesn’t mean that Magic and Pelinka should trade for him. George is likely thinking a supporting cast of Russell, Ingram, Randle, and maybe even Zubac could be enough to be a great team. If that core is broken up in a trade, he could leave the team when he hits free agency.
Paul George is one of my favorite players and I would be ecstatic if the Lakers were able to obtain him, but I will not hold my breath for it. I will just enjoy Ingram’s, Randle’s, Russell’s, and Zubac’s development. But if the superstar does choose to come home, I won’t complain.