The Golden State Warriors’ dominant run through the NBA postseason has forced every other contender to consider its long-term plan. Those who decide it’s worth challenging the champions at any cost will likely look at add another superstar this summer, and one of the most common names on such lists has been Indiana Pacers wing Paul George. The four-time All-Star can opt out of his contract in the summer of 2018, and the combination of that looming date and several unhappy statements on the state of the franchise has indicated he could force a trade to another squad. George’s decision looked set to determine the course of this offseason, from the draft to the last days of free agency.
It now seems as though interested teams will have to wait at least one more season to obtain the Pacers star. Although he didn’t sound especially enthused about it, George has committed to the team for 2017-18. From Michael Marot for the Associated Press:
The four-time All-Star forward provided clarity on his short-term plan Thursday before playing in a charity softball game just a short walk away from the only NBA arena he’s called home.
”I am a Pacer. I am under contract and I intend to play,” he said while sitting in the first base dugout. […]
George believes making the right moves in next week’s draft and in the free-agent market could allow the Pacers to close the gap and perhaps even dethrone James’ team.
”In ways, I feel like we are close,” he said. ”It’s hard not to believe that because we did the best against Cleveland of anyone and we could have won that series. At the same time, we need some more talent, we need better players.” […]
[Head coach Nate] McMillan didn’t divulge much about those conversations during a brief pregame interview, either.
”I’m absolutely not surprised he said that,” McMillan said, referring to George’s definitive answer about this coming season. ”I expected him to say that.”
The news concludes a lengthy period of speculation involving George, who averaged 23.7 ppg this regular season ahead of the Pacers’ first-round playoff sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The 27-year-old did not make an All-NBA team this spring, which robbed him of the chance to earn an extra $75 million from the Pacers in a contract extension. That development seemed to increase the chances that he would force a trade this summer, but it looks like George is willing to give the Pacers another chance to prove themselves.
That doesn’t mean George is any more ready to commit to the Pacers over the long term. In fact, sticking in town until free agency gives George the chance to join a team with an intact core rather than one broken up in a trade, which would justify one of the primary reasons to pass up the extra money Indiana can offer. Plus, if things don’t work out by the middle of next season, the Pacers can always try to move George to ensure they get back some players or assets before he leaves.
It remains to be seen what George’s decision not to force his way out of Indiana means for the rest of the league. If he’s not available in a deal, then the market for Jimmy Butler and free agents such as Blake Griffin could become much hotter. The Chicago Bulls now hold far more leverage in potential deals for Butler, although it’s unclear how many teams are interested in paying a hefty price for him.
Regardless of what comes to pass, one of the first dominoes of the offseason has fallen (or not, in this case). It’s officially summertime for the NBA.
– – – – – – –