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Report: As expected, Paul George informs Thunder he will opt-out of last year of contract

Oklahoma City Thunder v Cleveland Cavaliers

CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 20: Paul George #13 of the Oklahoma City Thunder warms up prior to the start of the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on January 20, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

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Let the free agency frenzy begin.

Whatever Paul George decides to do this summer — stay in Oklahoma City or take his talents to Los Angeles — he was never going to opt into the final year of his existing contract. That would pay him $20.7 million for next season, opt-out and re-sign with the Thunder or Lakers (or Sixers or Rockets anyone else) and his new salary starts at $30.6 million. That’s a lot of cash to leave on the table.

So as expected, George has informed the Thunder he is opting out of the last year of his contract, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Oklahoma City Thunder star Paul George has informed franchise officials that he will not be opting in for the final year of his contract and will become an unrestricted free agent, league sources told ESPN.

George has an 11:59 PM ET Friday deadline to formally decline to opt in.

In Oklahoma City, the team is convinced he is coming back, and that is a real possibility. However, if he stays sources around the league expect he will not sign the five-year, $176 million max deal and will instead ink a shorter one-plus-one contract that gives him the ability to move on in a year or two if he so chooses. It gives George more control over his future.

In Los Angeles, the team believes George wants to come home (he grew up in Southern California). They have their pitch prepared for him (which was a smart leak by the team... if one thinks the Lakers would do such a thing). If George comes it is probably with LeBron James and/or Kawhi Leonard (with Leonard through a trade and the other two as free agents). The Lakers are working hard to make the Leonard trade happen fast, but the Spurs are not in that same rush and will need to be blown away by an offer. The Lakers need Leonard or George to commit to convince LeBron to come (although you can be sure LeBron and George, and their reps, are talking).

The Sixers and Rockets would like to get in the conversation, but they are long shots to get invited to the dance.