There’s been a little bit of buzz on the net the last 24 hours regarding some comments Indiana Pacers forward Paul George made about his not-so-distant future in the NBA. Tuesday while appearing on “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” George — who is coming off an all-star campaign where he averaged 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game — mentioned that if the Los Angeles Lakers came calling next summer, he’d listen:
“My heart is still in Indiana,” the 23-year-old said. “… I’m still a Pacer, and hopefully I remain a Pacer. I’m happy where I’m at.”
George said that him hypothetically joining the Lakers would certainly be a “family-favorite team.”
“Of course it would be tough (to say no to Kobe). You’re talking about playing [at] home.”
These comments don’t necessarily suggest that George is ready to jump ship or is openly beginning a campaign to join the Lakers, although mainstream media is already spinning it as such. In reality, the likelihood of George becoming a Laker after the 2013-2014 season is far-fetched for a number of reasons.
For one, George will be a restricted free agent next summer following his fourth NBA season. Any offer that George receives can be matched by the Pacers, and considering the success the team enjoyed this past season by reaching the Eastern Conference Finals with George as their centerpiece the chances of them allowing their budding star to walk away are slim and none. The Lakers have the cap space to offer George a max contract, but Indiana has positioned themselves to be able to comfortably match without breaking the bank.
Some have proposed that the Lakers can try to work a sign-and-trade to entice the Pacers to let George come home to Southern California, but that would be ignoring one very important detail; the Lakers have absolutely no desirable assets. The Lakers currently only have one player under contract past next season — Steve Nash — and they surrendered a bevy of draft picks to acquire him in the first place. Los Angeles dealt away their 2013 and 2015 first rounders, as well as 2013 and 2014 second rounders for Nash. The Lakers do still have their 2016 and 2017 first round picks, but those are too far ahead for a contending franchise like Indiana to take in return for their star player.
The only scenario that would give the Lakers a realistic shot at acquiring Paul George is if he signs his qualifying offer next summer and becomes an unrestricted free agent for 2015, but that would put George at risk of a career-changing injury while playing a season without having his financial future secured, and not many players that are content with their current team are willing to take that risk.
Sorry to burst your bubble Lakers fans, but as great as it would be to see Paul George in a Lakers uniform barring some miracle three-team blockbuster trade, it won’t be happening any time soon.