As the NBA offseason prepares to kick into full gear with the start of free agency just a few days away, there has not been shortage of rumors for star players finding a new home and a new franchise to play for. Paul George has been front and center of all the rumor talks, and it seems as though his list of suitors continue to pile as we approach July 1st.
And in what seems like an offseason tradition, the Los Angeles Lakers are once again in the discussion of potentially landing a superstar. Whether a star like George does indeed end up with the Lakers is still questionable, as a few teams feel like they have more to offer than Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and the rest of the front office, and thus pose as a real threat to acquire a valuable talent like the Indiana star.
One of those teams is the Washington Wizards. Marc J. Spears of ESPN reports that franchise point guard John Wall is recruiting George in hopes of challenging LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the East, saying that they are “one piece away” from dethroning the King of the East.
“Look at our team. We are one piece away,” Wall said. “We have the point guard, we have the shooting guard, we have the center, we have the power forward. Our 3-man [Otto Porter Jr.] did great for us. You can’t take nothing away from what he did. But [George] is a guy that can guard LeBron and go back at LeBron. It’s a piece that you’re going to need to win. If you don’t have a guy who can do that, you don’t have a chance. …
“You got to add another star. You got to add another piece. You got to have three guys. And that’s what it’s looking like.”
While Wall’s assessment of George’s addition to the rising Wizards is certainly not wrong, the means to acquire him may not be totally there. If the desire is to add George with the tandem of Wall and Bradley Beal, who are the Wizards giving up in return that would incline the Pacers to agree on a deal? Otto Porter, who’s maybe their next best asset is currently a restricted free agent, and George still has 1 year left on his contract before being able to sign with any team outright. That’s not an option until 2018. So while they can entice George to join a contender, it’s unlikely Washington could sway the Pacers into taking a package revolving around Marcin Gortat.
With Cleveland still clear obstacle for every eastern conference team, expect a lot of players follow Wall’s example and be in full recruitment mode leading up to and during free agency.
Speaking of Cleveland…
ESPN’s Marc Stein just dropped a major Stein bomb this weekend reporting that a three team deal involving Cleveland, Indiana and Denver swapping a couple of all stars, some multi year contracts, and a few young prospects.
Other pieces involved in this three team blockbuster were Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, and Emmanuel Mudiay, per ESPN.
After getting destroyed by the Golden State Warriors in the Finals, the Cavaliers seem to be very aggressive in landing another superstar in hopes of challenging the powerhouse from the Bay and also convince their franchise player, LeBron James to stay beyond this year. According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, LeBron James has an eye on Los Angeles once he becomes a free agent next year, where can choose to opt out of his current contract.
Multiple league sources I’ve spoken to think the Lakers or Clippers are viable destinations for King James. Jalen Rose said this week on First Take that he expects LeBron to make a move from Cleveland to California, where he already owns a house 30 minutes away from Staples Center. The Lakers make sense if LeBron wants to build a sustainable winner with a core blend of veterans and youthful talent like Paul George — if, as NBA gossip suggests, George truly is “hell-bent” on going to L.A. — and Brandon Ingram. The Clippers make sense if LeBron wants to form a Banana Boat Voltron with Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony.
This may very well be what has sparked the sense of urgency of in Cleveland’s front office, but after falling out of negotiations with GM David Griffin, the Cavs aren’t looking too good in James’ eyes. With the threat of a banana boat rendezvous happening in Los Angeles, are locked in on Geroge, especially after losing out on the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes. Them landing George is huge question mark though, as Pacers president Kevin Pritchard is determined to get a get a good return in any deal involving their star forward.
Whatever James’ intentions are, the last thing Dan Gilbert and the rest of Cleveland want to see is their franchise player, the hometown hero, to leave again and form a superteam in Los Angeles, as NBA Chaos monger Rob Perez explains here.
This leaves us with the team that has probably the most assets the Pacers would be interested in getting back for a superstar of Paul George’s caliber.
Enter Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics.
Until the very end of time, the Celtics prove to be the supreme rival for the purple and gold, this time as a competitor for the superstar’s services. From Indiana’s standpoint, there’s no doubt the Celtics could offer them the most attractive package. A combination of picks, young players and valuable role players would certainly help Indiana in an inevitable rebuild once they part with their star player. After drafting Jayson Tatum this year and Jaylen Brown this year, all while veteran Jae Crowder still a vital cog in coach Brad Stevens’ system, the Celtics have overloaded depth on the SF position, and a package centered around one of their young players plus the picks they got from the 76ers trade makes it more appealing for Pritchard to pull the trigger on a trade.
Rumors have also surfaced of a free agency plan that would help convince Paul George into becoming a leprechaun, who up until this point, has made it clear that his preference is to be a Laker. According to Adrian Wojnarowski per the The Vertical, the Celtics are confident that they can pry away the LA native from playing for their longtime rival.
The Celtics have a growing confidence they could sign George to a contract extension, and keep him from leaving to his predetermined free-agent destination of the Los Angeles Lakers, league sources told The Vertical. Boston’s belief that it can make George more than a one-year rental is fueling the franchise’s willingness to part with a significant package of assets, league sources said.
How you ask? By signing Gordon Haywayd, after an outstanding year where Utah saw it lay claim to it’s first All Star since the Deron Williams era, Boston plans to convince George that a core of him, Hayward, Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas can usurp the Cavs.
The Boston Celtics are pursuing an aggressive summer plan of sequencing the signing of free agent Gordon Hayward and relinquishing the assets needed to complete a trade for Paul George, league sources told The Vertical.
With the assets Ainge has at his disposal, it won’t be hard to imagine a core 4 of those players spelling trouble for the rest of the league.
After a three year stretch of excellence and a recent run of postseason of dominance, the Golden State Warriors got the whole league shook. So shook in fact, that it has set off an NBA offseason so chaotic that you doubt whether you can call it an “offseason”. Paul George will continue to be the hot topic of any rumor for the majority of the summer, and until a deal is made, pressure remains in the inexperienced front office of the Lakers, as Paul George to the Lakers may run into more than a few stops on the road and ultimately settle there.
For all of Lakers Nation, losing out on George would be a travesty. But having to watch him parade around with leprechauns would be an absolute nightmare.