The Indiana Pacers were once a rising team, seemingly a few subtle tweaks from challenging the LeBron James-led Miami Heat.
Today, they’re a mediocre franchise fighting for playoff scraps in the Eastern Conference and are on the verge of losing franchise player Paul George.
Over the weekend, reports broke that George informed the Pacers he intends to leave the team with a preference for joining the Los Angeles Lakers. Now, Indiana must hurry to find value for a player who is a risk to leave any team that acquires him next summer.
With that in mind, our staff put together a few trades they’d like to see:
Paul George to the Utah Jazz for Derrick Favors, Alec Burks, this year’s Jazz pick (24th overall) and the Thunder’s lottery-protected 2018 pick.
By Jesus Gomez
For the Indiana Pacers, this should be an easy “yes,” since they would be getting the starter and two first round picks they are after, plus a wildcard in Burks. If he ever reaches the potential he flashed before injuries slowed him down, he could become a quality role player for them going forward. Even if he doesn’t, getting a solid two-way big man in Favors to pair with Myles Turner makes this an intriguing trade. The picks are not likely to produce a star, but it’s unlikely the Pacers get a lottery pick for a rental. If they can get some value from them and Burks and Favors—who are both just 25 years old—remain healthy, that’s a fantastic haul for a player who made it clear he was leaving.
For the Utah Jazz, this is a very risky trade but one they should consider. If they land George, they can sell free agents George Hill and Gordon Hayward on challenging the Warriors next season. Burks wasn’t in the rotation by the time the playoffs rolled around and Favors and Rudy Gobert made for an awkward and antiquated big man pairing, so the losses aren’t huge. The Jazz would lack a bit of size but the upside would be a killer wing rotation of George, Hayward, Joe Johnson and Rodney Hood. They could go small with Hill at point guard and Gobert as the only big man and have switch-y, versatile lineups with plenty of scoring punch. There’s always a chance Hayward and Hill leave, making George and the Jazz a bad fit, but the Magic showed with the Serge Ibaka trade that you can at least recover some value even on a rental. And if everything works and the Jazz make the Western Conference Finals? George might surprise us all and stay in Utah.
Paul George to the Los Angeles Lakers for Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and the No. 28 pick
By Bryan Toporek
It’s been clear for months that Paul George wants to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent in 2018. The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski further affirmed that Sunday, referring to the Lakers as his “preferred” destination. With that in mind, why would the Lakers sacrifice any of their young players and/or draft picks to trade for George when they could sign him as a free agent next summer and give up nothing? Consider it two parts risk aversion, one part much-needed aggression.
If George winds up landing on a contender—whether it’s Cleveland, Utah or Boston—who’s to say whether he’ll still be gung-ho to sign with the Lakers 12 months from now, particularly if L.A. again struggles in 2017-18? If winning a championship is his primary motivation and Brandon Ingram, D’Angelo Russell and this year’s No. 2 overall pick don’t help the Lakers take a significant step forward, will George still feel that complementary cast can help nudge him past the Golden State Warriors? Trading for him now mitigates that risk, particularly if the Lakers don’t have to give up one of their core pieces.
Is Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and a late first-round pick enough? George’s not-so-secret desire to join the Lakers should drive his trade value down enough where Indiana has to consider it. Randle could be a burly frontcourt complement to Myles Turner, while Clarkson could slide in as a replacement for Jeff Teague if Indiana has no intention of re-signing him in free agency. That No. 28 pick likely won’t become an All-Star-caliber player, but in a draft class this deep, value selections abound in the late first round. (See: Evans, Jawun.) If the Pacers didn’t sign Randle to an extension by late October, he’d be a restricted free agent next summer, but the cost of keeping him around will be far less prohibitive than George’s next contract.
Selling a superstar for 40 cents on the dollar is hardly ideal, but George has eviscerated whatever trade leverage Indiana once had. The Lakers reportedly don’t plan on parting ways with any of their young assets in exchange for him, according to ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne, but if trade talks heat up with other teams, L.A. should bite the bullet and give up Randle and Clarkson. Otherwise, the Lakers run the risk of George becoming infatuated with another team between now and July 2018, scuttling their chances of signing him as a free agent next summer.
Paul George to the Portland Trail Blazers for Allen Crabbe and 2017 first round picks 15, 20, and 26
By Brandon Jefferson
The Indiana Pacers are not going to get much future capital back for a one-year rental of Paul George. Instead of looking down the line too far why not try to capitalize as much as they can on 2017 assets? The Portland Trail Blazers have a league-high three first round picks in the 2017 NBA Draft. Indiana already holds the 18th overall pick and potentially adding 15, 20 and 26 from the Trail Blazers could allow them to maneuver up or down the draft as their big board sees fit. If the Pacers like a prospect at the back end of the lottery the extra picks from Portland makes it easier to facilitate a deal for a higher pick. In a class with a lot of talent at the top this could be Indiana’s best chance to find a long-term replacement for George.
Portland is capped out for the foreseeable future. Making this move for George gives them their best chance to maximize the tandem of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Moving one of Evan Turner or Allen Crabbe now gives them the opportunity to open up any amount of cap space down the line. Crabbe is an intriguing young piece, but he took a step back a year ago and he hasn’t proven to be worth the $18 million he will cost them next season. Even though the NBA world knows that George wants to head to Los Angeles in 2018, Lillard has made it known that he wants George in Portland. Lillard has been credited with being the main driving force behind a great and budding organizational culture that’s been built in the upper Northwest. After watching the Pacers crumble overnight, having a chance to be the player to take the Trail Blazers to the next level could be enough to convince him to delay his homecoming.
Another thing that Portland has going in its favor is that George would not have to move from the wing. A lot of talk has been made about George’s future being as a small-ball four, something George has been outwardly against for a few years. In keeping Moe Harkless and Al Farouq Aminu, both have played the four for stretches, they have enough versatile pieces to allow George to remain on the perimeter. George’s ability as a defender also helps lessen a weakness for the Trail Blazers. McCollum and Lillard are not great defenders due to physical limitations, but if George is on the roster he can take on the opponent’s top perimeter talent and allow the two guards to defend lesser players. A foursome of Lillard, McCollum, George, and Jusuf Nurkic is not on par with what the Golden State Warriors assembled, but it’s talented enough to get Portland in the conversation for a top four seed in the Western Conference.