Paul George has backed the Indiana Pacers into a corner that makes them an obvious loser. George’s announcement that he has no intentions of re-signing and wants to test the free agency in 2018, preferably wanting to sign with his hometown Los Angeles Lakers, leaves the Pacers searching for answers. They cannot say they did not see this coming.
Since the final leg of the 2016-17 season, George laid out warning signs. And when the superstar did not make an All-NBA team, halting him from being eligible for a Super Max extension, any chance of the Pacers retaining him long-term evaporated into the thin air.
Larry Bird saw it coming. That’s why he quickly got out of dodge before George tipped over the porta potty spilling a lot of mess on the Pacers’ front office.
Indiana was completely naive to George, holding out hope of him having a breakout season in 2017-18 and the Super Max offer being too much for him to pass up. Now they have to save face. How can they when they have no leverage in the situation?
Under normal circumstances damn near every one of the other 29 teams would be packaging up offers. But, with the caveat of George wanting to eventually end up a Laker, leaves almost no one intelligently ready to pony up for a one-year rental. The only team willing to do so is the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers are the only team in the unique situation.
Sure, Dan Gilbert and his staff will hold out a glimmer of hope that, if they land George, playing for a championship will give him the intrigue to remain with Cleveland alongside Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. The only issue is James may have just one year in him in Cleveland. Reports have surfaced that James has intention of heading to L.A. himself in 2018. He has gone as far as preparing his family to the move out west.
Still, Cleveland would be okay with George being there one year. They want to milk the time they have with James, and George helps the team even the talent score with the NBA champion Golden State Warriors for an inevitable fourth straight meeting in the Finals. Giving James a final hurrah with his hometown team would be worth every bit for the Cavaliers.
Outside of Cleveland (maybe other NBA title contenders like San Antonio) everyone else is yielding a risk of George belting after one year. The Pacers are boxed in with little options to turn to. Boston, who has all the pieces to work out a deal, won’t be interested in turning in some of their chips for a one-year rental. Therefore, Indiana is bound to be the biggest loser in this situation, unless somehow they convince the Lakers of relinquishing the No. 2 pick in Thursday’s draft.
It’s Indiana’s only option to win in this situation. If reports are true, the Lakers are not sold on Lonzo Ball and are entertaining trade options with the No. 2 pick. If Kevin Pritchard, the Pacers new president of basketball operations, plays his cards right, they can give George just what he wants while getting something of value.
Of course, the Lakers still have the leverage for now. They know they can land George without giving up any of their young pieces to do so. He wants to be there and they can wait out one more season to get him in free agency while keeping plenty of their young weapons. With the Pacers talking it out with other teams, maybe it will place pressure on Magic Johnson to make a move for George now with the thought of George getting comfortable with someone else enough to stay long-term.
The Pacers landing the No. 2 pick give them options regardless of what other pieces Los Angeles throws in the deal. There is one player that comes to mind. The intrigue of getting a solid player such as Josh Jackson to ultimately replace George is a good catch. Jackson’s upside may be more of catch than landing a Kevin Love or any picks that Cleveland could give up.
Jackson’s numbers in one season at Kansas are very comparable with George’s two-year collegiate career at Fresno State. Jackson shot 51.3 percent compared to George’s 44.7 percent from the field. George was slightly better shooting from three at 39.6 percent, Jackson shot 37.8 percent. George’s best season was as a sophomore where he averaged 16.8 points per game. Jackson averaged 16.3 points. George was listed at 6-foot-7, 201 pounds coming out of college. Jackson is 6-foot-8, 207 pounds.
Jackson is a quality defender much like George. His wingspan and footwork allows him to play positions 1 through 4 effectively. He has the tools of being just as effective as George as a lock-down defender.
Offensively, Jackson can play well on-ball, handling the point. He can also play effectively off the ball at the two and three positions. There is a lot to compare Jackson to George.
Jackson would be a perfect replacement for George, eventually. In fact he is the only reasonable haul the Pacers can get in exchange for such a play-maker like George. Now all there is for the Pacers is to get the Lakers to see the vision and both teams could walk away with a win on Thursday, preferably making the Pacers winners in a situation that currently looks like a lose-lose situation.