The Indiana Pacers have agreed to trade All-Star forward Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reports.
In the reported trade, the Thunder will acquire George in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
In what will perhaps be the biggest acquisition this offseason, the Oklahoma City Thunder shocked everyone around the NBA by acquiring George. Following news of the trade, it was reported that the Thunder had been in talks with the Pacers for several days to potentially acquire George.
It was reported nearly two weeks ago by The Vertical that George had informed the Pacers that he planned on leaving the franchise next summer in free agency. He also told the Pacers that he preferred to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency.
By informing the Pacers now that he wouldn’t re-sign with the team next summer, George essentially gave the organization an opportunity to recoup some assets in exchange for his departure. Rather than risk losing George for nothing, the Pacers opted to trade him to the Thunder now.
Many believed that the Boston Celtics could be a team that had a chance to land the four-time All-Star given their stockpile of assets and young players. While they were a team that seemed destined to trade for George, the Thunder emerged in recent hours to ultimately win the bidding war.
Although the Thunder have the league’s Most Valuable Player in Russell Westbrook on its roster, the team struggled at times during the regular season and in the playoffs to find other consistent scoring options. Oladipo was the team’s second-leading scorer, but struggled at times throughout the season with inconsistencies.
Adding a proven player in George figures to give the Thunder exactly what they need in another scoring option. George is coming off of a career season in which he averaged 23.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
The Thunder figure to now hope to be able to convince George to re-sign long-term over the course of the next year. They are coming off of a season in which they posted a 47-35 record and have the league’s reigning MVP. As a player that has previously stated his desire to win, it may prove difficult for George to walk away from a playoff contender to join a Lakers team still in the midst of a rebuild.
The 2017-18 now projects to be a big season for the Thunder. While it could potentially be the one and only season they keep George, Westbrook has the option to opt out of his contract next summer and become an unrestricted free agent. The team figures to try to convince both players to sign long-term contracts.
With George now reportedly heading to Oklahoma City, the Thunder have now perhaps two of the league’s best perimeter defenders on its roster. George has earned All-Defensive First Team honors once and twice earned placement on the All-Defensive Second Team, while Thunder forward Andre Roberson recently was named to the All-Defensive Second Team.
Roberson is set to enter restricted free agency this summer, and it remains to be seen if the Thunder will opt to retain him, but it appears as though they could decide to keep him. By trading for George, there is still a risk the Thunder could lose him once he hits unrestricted free agency next summer.
For general manager Sam Presti, it’s a calculated risk at this point, and one that could pay off for the franchise for several seasons.
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