BOSTON -- It’s no secret Paul George has been on the Celtics’ radar for quite some time now.
It's not hard to figure why.
WHO'D SAY NO?
- First potential trade: New Orleans' Anthony Davis
- Second potential trade: Indiana's Paul George
- Third potential trade: Golden State's Klay Thompson
- Fourth potential trade: New York's Kristaps Porzingis
- Fifth potential trade: Three-way with Kings and 76ers for Okafor, Saric and two picks
He’s a 6-foot-9 forward with the ability to carry a team offensively while doing an above-average job defending the opposing team’s best perimeter scorer.
But George has shown signs in recent years of wanting more than just to be known as one of the game’s top players.
He wants to win. Now.
And the Pacers, just four years removed from the second of back-to-back trips to the Eastern Conference finals, aren't that kind of winner. This past season they were the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and were swept in the first round by Cleveland.
Their chances of getting to the postseason don’t look great next season. And even if they make it, they're likely to make a similarly quick exit.
But, as we’ve stated, George is one of the best players in the NBA.
So why would the Pacers even consider a trade?
GOING NOWHERE FAST
As noted, the Pacers are not a team that’s showing signs of building towards a brighter future. Aside from George, the team’s most significant player is Myles Turner. And Indiana can’t expect to get appreciably better through the draft, not with picks 18 and 47 in this draft. Free agency is an option, especially if the Pacers decide to renounce their cap holds and exceptions, which, according to Spotrac.com, would create nearly $27 million in cap space. But even with that, it’s far from a given Indiana will use it wisely to bring in the kind of talent that will entice George to stay after this upcoming season.
LOSE GEORGE FOR NOTHING
And that's the concern more than any other for the Pacers, who are likely to go into next year without an extension done for George. He hits free agency next summer and rumors are swirling that he plans to bolt for the West Coast and play for the Lakers, so the worst-case scenario for Indiana is to see its franchise player walk away and have nothing to show for it. That’s why it’s imperative for the Pacers to gauge the trade market for George. Losing him would certainly mean they'd be rebuilding. But, as the Celtics have shown, it doesn’t have to be quite so painful if you can accumulate enough assets to soften the blow of losing George.
So here’s a potential deal to ponder:
CELTICS GET . . .
- Paul George
PACERS GET . . .
- 2018 Brooklyn pick
- Terry Rozier
- Jaylen Brown
- Tyler Zeller
Such a deal gives the Celtics the coveted wing star they've longed for. Losing Brown is a tough pill to swallow, based on the steady growth and improvement we saw from him this season. The idea that he could emerge as an All-Star in a few years isn’t really that far-fetched. But considering the Pacers are rebuilding, they’re going to likely want a player with star potential like Brown and a rotation guard like Rozier. Zeller gives them some added frontcourt depth.
The Pacers would love to get Boston’s No. 1 pick this year, but the Celtics can’t part with that for a player they could potentially not be able to re-sign next summer.
And by keeping Jae Crowder, the Celts have a team that’s more poised to once again be among the top teams in the East and would be among the favorites to return to the conference finals for a second straight year.
That deal focuses on the Pacers’ adding youth and a high draft pick. But if they wanted to be more competitive from the jump, they could pursue getting Crowder and Avery Bradley, along with the 2018 pick from Brooklyn.
I’m not crazy about the first deal, but I see its value for both teams -- the Celtics get their star and the Pacers add talent and a draft pick. Plus, they likely won’t win much next year and could wind up with their own pick being in the lottery (top-14), in addition to the pick they get from Boston via Brooklyn.
As for the second deal involving Bradley and Crowder . . . I don’t like it at all.
I know the Celtics are going to have a tough time re-signing Bradley; by moving him now, they can assure they get something in return. But parting ways with Crowder means parting ways with one of the most team-friendly contracts in the NBA -- a five-year, $35 million deal he signed two years ago -- that he's sure to outperform.
It feels like too much to part ways with for George, who 1) the Celtics may not be able to be retain and 2) makes you better but not good enough to leap-frog Cleveland for the top spot in the East.
Two options for framework of Paul George trade: Option 1 - George for 18 BKN, Jaylen, Rozier, Zeller. Would you do this?— NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSBoston) June 6, 2017
Option 2: George for '18 BKN pick, Bradley and Crowder. Would you make this trade?— NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSBoston) June 6, 2017