The Indiana Pacers have agreed to trade Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Who are the winners and losers of the deal?
Oklahoma City has joined the arms race in an attempt to dethrone the reigning champion Golden State Warriors. After the Rockets successfully added a superstar point guard in Chris Paul, Western Conference rival Oklahoma City followed suit, adding their own star in the form of Paul George.
The addition of George gives Westbrook the sidekick he has been missing since Kevin Durant jetted out of town last summer. The NBA offseason is more exciting than the actual regular season at this point, right?
Winner: Oklahoma City Thunder
Sure, it’s a one-year rental, so to speak, but it’s a calculated risk for the Thunder. Although Paul George has been adamant about playing for the Lakers, the Thunder have to think they have a decent chance to retain him. Oklahoma City is close enough to his native Los Angeles where he may not be that homesick as he would have been if he were dealt to a city like Boston. George also gets to try his hand at playing with Russell Westbrook, who is by far the most talented teammate he will ever have.
George obviously takes the Thunder to another level. The floor spacing alone will help the rest of the supporting cast. He is the wing player they have been missing while also getting the anemic offensive Andre Roberson off the floor. Another super team may have been formed. George, 27, averaged 23.7 points, 3.3 assists and 6.6 rebounds per game in 2016-17.
Part of this deal was obviously to cater to the MVP Westbrook as well. Westbrook hasn’t guaranteed that he will stay in Oklahoma City forever, and the organization has shown a willingness to do whatever it takes to win. The narrative that Westbrook doesn’t have the help is no longer true, as the Thunder have acquired a superstar. Give credit to the Thunder; they essentially turned Serge Ibaka into Paul George, and that’s a win in anyone’s book.
Loser: Oklahoma City Thunder
It’s hard to call the team acquiring the superstar a loser, but let me play devil’s advocate for a second. This is a huge risk; there’s no question about it. George comes with only one year remaining on his contract and could very much turn into a rental. George, who loves L.A., may not be too fond of riding out the rest of his career in Oklahoma City. Let’s face it: Oklahoma City is not Los Angeles.
There’s also the reputation of Westbrook to worry about. He is the face of the franchise in OKC, but what if another star leaves for greener pastures? If Durant and George both leave town, is Westbrook “valuable”? There’s no guarantee the on-court product of George and Westbrook will work. George is very much used to his role of being the playmaker in Indiana’s offense, which obviously will no longer be the case with Westbrook in town. The Oklahoma City point guard is the system in OKC, and George may not be willing to play second fiddle in a small market town.
Don’t be surprised if George says adios a year from now after getting sick and tired of playing with a guy who shoots a meager 42.5 percent while leading the league in shot attempts by 396 over his next cloests teammate. If a second superstar walks away from the Thunder, they may never convince another one to pair with Westbrook.
Loser: Indiana Pacers
The Pacers got fleeced, there’s no question about it. This seems to be the trend in the NBA, however. DeMarcus Cousins was shipped out of town for ten cents on the dollar. The same can be said in the Jimmy Butler/Timberwolves trade. The team giving away the superstar never gets fair compensation, that’s just the way it is.
The Pacers not only got ripped off, their trade compensation didn’t even make sense. Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis are more win-now options. Indiana is in need of a full rebuild to build around Myles Turner, not a perennial eight-seed stuck in purgatory. Indiana even oddly enough loses salary cap space in the deal. There are also reports that other teams offered more but Kevin Pritchard didn’t want to trade him within the conference. Come on, man. Just take the best deal. This obviously wasn’t the best Indiana could do.
How absurd is it to take on a $84 million Victor Oladipo contract for a player who is limited offensively? The former Indiana product is athletic and a plus defender but doesn’t really fit the modern day NBA. Oladipo, 25, averaged 15.9 points per game on just .361 percent from 3-point range. Guys like that don’t space the floor properly to make the rest of your teammates better.
Sabonis is a nice young player but is far from a sure thing. He had a tough time even seeing the floor in the postseason, averaging three minutes in two playoff games. Sabonis averaged 5.9 points per game on under 40 percent from the field (yikes). The hope is that he can develop into the perfect stretch-four next to Myles Turner, but that isn’t exactly a sure thing.
Winner: Boston Celtics
Yes, this isn’t the popular opinion, but it’s the right one. Adding Paul George doesn’t necessarily overtake Cleveland in the East. Also, why in the world would you push your coveted assets you worked so hard to get when you can just sign Gordon Hayward for cap space? Signing Hayward makes much more sense. Given the track record that Hayward has with Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, they should be considered the favorite to land him. That’s a different story for another day, however.
People everywhere were clamoring for the C’s to add George, but it’s not an intelligent decision. George wants to play in L.A., we know that much. Guess what? Boston is literally the exact opposite of what Los Angeles is. It’s cold and the fan base is tough. L.A. is warm and the culture is laid back. George wasn’t going to stay in Boston, which is the furthest thing from his hometown. Staying away from George is a blessing in disguise for the Celtics when they can use some of those assets later down the road in a potential Kristaps Porzingis deal.
Winner: Los Angeles Lakers
This is the best case scenario for the Lakers. George gets dealt to a small market team where he isn’t going to be the primary face of the franchise. The Thunder do not have a storied franchise history, either. There’s even a proven track record of stars leaving OKC before (see also: Durant and James Harden). Patience will pay off for the Lakers, who can sit back, develop Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, then get their man anyway. Bravo Magic Johnson, you win the game of poker, it’s just going to be in 2018.
In the end, the real winner of the deal may just be the Eastern Conference. Another star goes to the West, making the East a bit of a laughingstock at the moment. LeBron James and the Cavs’ path to the Finals keeps getting easier with George going West. Golden State’s path becomes more difficult adding another worthy foe.
The arms race in the NBA continues to determine the next super team in the NBA? Let’s see if it’s the Oklahoma City Thunder after this trade for George.