After the Indiana Pacers suffered an early exit in the Eastern Conference Playoffs 2017, Paul George had expressed the desire to leave and join his hometown team, the Los Angeles Lakers. However, the Lakers passed on trading for George, believing they could acquire him in the summer of 2018 as an unrestricted free agent without giving up valuable assets.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, the first week of the 2018 NBA free agency concluded with the All-Star forward immediately re-signing with the Oklahoma City Thunder without giving Los Angeles the opportunity to make their own pitch.
The Lakers’ overconfidence has cost them an NBA superstar who could have become LeBron James’ running mate next season. The tandem of Paul George and James would have made the Lakers a team to fear in the deep Western Conference.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (h/t Sagar Trika of SB Nation’s Blazer’s Edge), the Pacers would have sent George to the Lakers for the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft (which the Lakers used to select Lonzo Ball) or Brandon Ingram.
Acquiring either Ball or Ingram would have helped the Pacers speed up the rebuilding process in the post-Paul George era. Since entering the league, Ingram has drawn comparisons to Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors, and in his sophomore year, the 20-year-old small forward finally unleashed his superstar potentials, averaging 16.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.9 assists on 47 percent shooting from the field and 39 percent from beyond the arc.
However, as of now, there is no doubt that the Pacers made the right decision to send George to the Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Though Sabonis remains as a role player, Oladipo had a breakout performance in his first season in Indiana, helping the Pacers secure a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference where they took LeBron James and the eventual Eastern Conference champions Cleveland Cavaliers to seven games in the first round.
In 75 games he played with the Pacers last season, Oladipo averaged 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 2.4 steals on 47.7 percent shooting from the field and 37.1 percent from beyond the arc. Oladipo is undeniably one of the major reasons why the Pacers decided to remain competitive instead of undergoing a full-scale rebuild. If he shows the same or a better performance next season, it will not be a surprise if the Pacers officially declare him as the new face of their franchise.
Meanwhile, it appears that the Lakers didn’t learn from their mistakes and have done the exact same thing they did last summer. When the drama in San Antonio started and Kawhi Leonard demanded a trade from the Spurs with a preference to being traded to Los Angeles, the Lakers refused to part ways with their young players, believing Leonard will sign with the team in 2019 NBA free agency.