Breaking news struck the Indiana Pacers franchise on Sunday. All-Star forward Paul George informed the team of his intentions to head out into free agency during the summer of 2018, Adrian Wojnarowski – of The Vertical – reported.
“George plans to play out the 2017-18 season with Indiana, but wants to give the organization the chance to plan appropriately for its future – which George told the team won’t include him, league sources said.” – Adrian Wojnarowski
George is an all-around player and led Indiana this past season in points per game (23.7), steals per game (1.6), defensive rebounds per game (5.8), and minutes per game (35.9).
Wojnarowski also reported that George would prefer to play for his hometown team, the Los Angeles Lakers, in the 2018-2019 campaign.
This news is a big blow for Indiana, as they will now lose the “face of the franchise” and will try and build around center Myles Turner.
Over the course of his six seasons in Indianapolis, George and the Pacers have not been able to attract other superstars to the team. That has proven to be costly and could be the main reason as to why George wants to leave.
Heading to Los Angeles may not be the best decision – basketball-wise – at the moment, but could bode well for him in the long-term. The Lakers have the second pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and Los Angeles, historically, has been a destination for a lot of talent in the NBA.
George is a premier talent in the NBA today, and having him as the “face of the franchise,” in a marketable city could help the team rather quickly.
On the other hand, the Pacers could also try and trade George to another contender. One team that has reportedly been mentioned are the defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Dave McMenamin, of ESPN, reported on Sunday that Indiana and first-year general manager Kevin Pritchard reached out to the Cavaliers about a possible deal.
“The Cavs are willing to enter into trade talks for George without any assurances he will commit to a long-term deal in Cleveland, a source familiar with the Cavs thinking told ESPN. Cleveland is confident its championship culture and overall atmosphere could sway George to want to stay after playing out the 2017-18 season on the final year of his deal.” – Dave McMeniman
The main trade piece here could be All-Star Kevin Love. For Cleveland, the need to move Love is due in large part to his defense, which he has had his struggles with over the years.
For Indiana, the possibility of adding a stretch-four like Love could make the rebuild quicker. This past season, Love had 41 double-doubles in 60 games played.
Re-signing point guard Jeff Teague, along with Turner and the possible acquisition of Love could make Pacer fans very optimistic about the future.