As the trade deadline approaches, the NBA's top teams look to add that final missing piece to complete their championship-contending team. Is Paul George really on the trading block?
At the current time, it is 13 days until the NBA's trade deadline. Front office executives are working tirelessly to make the best deals for their franchise, whether that move is acquiring one last complimentary piece for their team, a bona fide superstar piece to fuel a Finals run, or trading away players to accumulate more draft selections for the offseason.
As I wrote previously, the Pacers currently occupy a quasi-gray area on the trading spectrum; Indiana lacks the pieces needed to acquire a top-tier NBA player, and the Pacers have improved enough that it's difficult to justify breaking the bank for a new star. Additionally, the tradable assets they do have are old, expensive, and ineffective, and with Indiana's salary cap situation placing them with just a $2.9 million exception, extra contract-juggling would be required to balance any prospective deals.
Aside from swapping role players with another team, the one scenario in which Indiana could potentially find themselves is that of a big seller to another top team in the NBA for a bounty of either players or picks. On Wednesday, Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Boston Celtics have shown interest in acquiring Pacers forward Paul George in an attempt to procure a young superstar that can complement Isaiah Thomas' All-Star play. George is one of several players Boston has targeted, along with Chicago's Jimmy Butler and New York's Carmelo Anthony.
Is a Paul George trade likely developing? Is a trade package for him even realistic?
Short answer: No.
Long answer: No, Paul George will not be traded.
Trading Paul George at all makes no sense logistically, strategically, or financially for Indiana, especially to a top team in the East. Team president Larry Bird humorously continues to entertain calls, but has mentioned several times that both George and second-year player Myles Turner are essentially untouchable. It would quite literally require a bounty for any team to acquire George without sacrificing any top-tier assets. In the case of Boston, the only player remotely close to George in salary is Amir Johnson, and acquiring Johnson would simply be redundant for Indiana with Thaddeus Young and Lavoy Allen on the roster. Removing Johnson from the picture means that Boston would most likely have to trade at least two of Jae Crowder, Jalen Brown, and Marcus Smart in addition to another player to satisfy cap requirements. It's difficult to imagine the Pacers would even be comfortable with this scenario, and they would likely inquire about one of Boston's several top picks in the upcoming drafts. Even then, trading George to the Celtics would be a head-scratcher for Indiana, as these two teams could potentially meet in the second round of the playoffs, and the Pacers have recently matched up fairly well with the Boston. Suddenly abandoning the season by trading their best player would be a giant middle finger to the fans as well, and Bird previously stated he is ready to offer George a max contract to ensure he will stay in Indianapolis, thus keeping the Pacer faithful satisfied.
The phrase "it's a business" is often used when coping with the harsh finality of trades in the sports world, but rarely does it refer to forgoing a move. In the case of the Indiana Pacers, trading Paul George would be a disaster for the franchise, and there is no way that Larry Bird will concede the year after carefully constructing this current roster.