Now that Paul George's name is in the public square, all the scenarios on how the Wizards can push their way into acquiring him have reached absurd proportions.
Should they have tapped the Indiana Pacers to gauge interest?
Of course. But they don't have cap space or, on the surface, the pieces that would make sense for Indiana or for Washington itself.
--Bradley Beal is a non-starter. The whole purpose of adding a player such as George is so the Wizards can have their own Big 3. They can't have that if Beal is traded. The NBA is a guard-oriented league. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley. Front offices aren't rushing to fix something that's not broken. If elite backcourts are so easy to put together, name three others. That's why you don't break them up unless absolutely necessary. If they leave as unrestricted free agents, that's something a team can't control.
--George has made it clear he'd be a one-year rental at $19.5 million for the 2017-18 season. After that, he's gone and prefers to play at home with the L.A. Lakers. Why a player of his caliber would go to a rebuilding team with many question marks and in the same conference with Golden State doesn't make much sense. But this isn't a secret. You will not have George's heart or loyalty.
--The Wizards want to extend Wall this offseason as they're able to pay about $170 million under the new collective bargaining agreement over four years. In addition to the two years he has left on his existing deal, Wall would be committed to D.C. for six years total. Knowing he'd likely be the only superstar in town after Beal/George depart, think he'd be more or less likely to commit? The Wizards will quickly go from two star players to zero.
--The Pacers are in a pinch in part because everyone in the league knows they can't play hardball with George. They have to move him -- either now or by the trade deadline in February -- so they have a chance of getting something in return. If not, they lose him for nothing next summer when he can exercise his player option to bolt as an unrestricted free agent. They're not going to get equity for the four-time All-Star, a rare two-way player in today's NBA who can change the game on either end. Even the Pacers realize that. Any team that engages in a bidding war would be foolish with another to up the stakes for a player who won't commit. Yes, you can win the summer by saying, "Hey, we got Paul George." What about next year when you lose him to Los Angeles? You don't deal in what-ifs if you're a front office and hope the player likes you enough to stick around. That's a losing strategy. You need certainty.
--The Cavaliers would make a lot of sense for a key reason: George solidifies them as the best team in the East next to Kyrie Irving and LeBron James and make them a bigger threat to this year's champion Golden State Warriors. Even if George were to leave after one season, they could win in two ways. Aside from the championship potential, they can unload Kevin Love's contact of $22.6 million next season, $24.1 million in 2018-19 and $25.6 million in 2019-20 in the process. Love has likely reached his ceiling. The returns will diminish and he'll never be the defensive presence they need behind a no-show defender like Irving and an aging superstar in James who is a major defensive liability himself outside of the occasional chasedown block. Subtracting Love's contract from the books alone would make it a win-win. The Wizards aren't in that position with Beal.
--Beal has a $128 million contract, but he's coming off his best season as a pro and getting better. Unlike Love, his ceiling is higher and he is still improving. His returns aren't diminishing. His contract is not an albatross. Not to mention, he's the Wizards' best two-way player. While it's popular to say it's Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre or John Wall, the proof isn't in any of the analytic data. It's not based on steals or blocks. It's in the eye test. Beal was the most consistent defender on the ball all season, and if you want further evidence see who defended Thomas during key situations (and with success) vs. Boston Celtics. It was Beal and he did the best job of anyone and he quietly did it all season. It's easy to overlook because the Wizards weren't a good defensive team. He's far too valuable.
-- If -- and this is a huge if -- the Wizards don't believe Porter is worthy of a $90 million-$100 million contract and moving him would satisfy the Pacers' demands, then that would be the direction to explore. But what's the incentive for Porter to agree to such a deal? Under the 2017 CBA sign-and-trade rule, he'd lose millions in doing so. He'd get one less year on his contract and his annual raises will be 5% instead of 8%. Unless Porter just loves the idea of going to Indiana, it's almost impossible to see him, or his agent, agreeing to such a deal.
Will the Pacers take some sort of package that involves role players and draft picks for George? That's what it would have to be for the Wizards, it would appear, but even then how much of your future are you willing to mortgage for a rental?
You'll lose all of those players and their potential. And make no mistake, you'll soon lose George, too, and all that would be left is buyer's remorse.