Since the last offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers emerged as the top favorite to land Paul George in the summer of 2018. After trading Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets, the Lakers have enough salary cap space to give George a max contract. However, the latest NBA rumors suggest the Lakers could trade for PG during the 2017-18 NBA season.
As the Oklahoma City Thunder continue to struggle, Paul George started to become part of NBA trade rumors once again. Having a player option on his contract, the 27-year-old small forward could choose to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. According to Royce Young of ESPN, some rival executives are already wondering whether George will be available on the trading block if things don’t improve in OKC.
Since being traded to the Thunder, George hasn’t given any assurance that he will re-sign. With their current situation, it’s highly likely George will leave, and there are speculations that he’s heading to the Los Angeles Lakers. According to Sam Amick of USA Today, the Thunder won’t let another superstar walk away for free in free agency.
If the Thunder feel they can’t challenge the Golden State Warriors for Western Conference supremacy, they may consider trading Paul George before the February 8 deadline. However, as Amick noted, rival executives believe George’s value has gone down because of the rumors he is joining the Lakers in 2018. According to Mitch Lawrence of Forbes, an Eastern Conference executive said that even the Lakers are unlikely to give up two young players for George right now.
It would be unwise for the Lakers to throw away valuable assets for a player they feel they can sign in free agency. However, the Lakers could use the Thunder’s situation to hit two birds with one stone. According to Timothy Rapp of Bleacher Report, the Lakers should consider trading for Paul George if the Thunder will agree to absorb Luol Deng and the $37 million remaining on his contract.
The proposed trade will send Deng, Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson to Oklahoma City in exchange for George. The deal will allow the Lakers to acquire their top target while having enough cap space to sign another superstar in the 2018 free agency. The Thunder will also benefit from the deal depending on how they will utilize the assets they will acquire from the Lakers.
Deng could serve as the Thunder’s starting power forward, allowing Carmelo Anthony to return to his natural position at 3. Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson will be valuable for the Thunder either in the starting lineup or the second unit.
As of now, it’s early to say whether the Paul George trade will happen before the February 8 deadline or not. The Thunder are currently focused on addressing their current issues in order to improve their performance this season. If their struggle continues, expect more rumors to circulate around George and the Thunder.