The week leading up to the NBA Draft is always an exciting time and this summer is no different. Some of the more intriguing trade chatter (although unrealistic) to begin the offseason centers around the Portland Trail Blazers, and the apple of everyone's eye, Indiana's Paul George. George just told the Pacers that he will not be using the opt-in provision in his contract next year, thus ending his time in Indiana and putting them in an awkward, divorced yet living together situation. Indiana determined not to come away empty handed, has already begun searching for a trade partner albeit with little leverage at this point.
What has made the possibility of the Trail Blazers fascinating is that the Blazers players themselves are the ones attempting to stir the pot and seem to be the only ones talking about it. Both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have taken to social media expressing their desire for the team to add George through a trade. Even Evan Turner has chimed in.
George has stated that he prefers to play with his hometown Lakers. That coupled with Cleveland looking to ante-up for another rematch with the Warriors, and Celtics having trade assets for years to come to Portland would have to pull nothing short of a grand heist to make it happen. But hypothetically, here's how it could.
1. Get George to commit long term
This is the biggie. George is essentially on a one-year deal, and if the Pacers simply trade him to the highest bidder to spite him he will no doubt walk the following offseason. Portland would acquire his Bird-Rights with a trade, thus making them able to go over the salary cap to sign him. The Blazers are already WELL over the salary cap and deep into the luxury tax threshold, however with a deep-pocketed owner like Paul Allen if you've pushed all the chips to the center of the table to acquire a superstar you've likely already committed to being a tax payer team. Convince George that inserting him into a lineup with one of the highest scoring guard tandems in the league, a budding Bosnian lurking in the paint and a fan base that lives and dies on your every move will strike fear into the rest of the NBA. Convince him that he's really the only piece missing from your lineup. Convince him that craft beer is awesome. Do whatever you have to do, but do not under any circumstances trade for him as a rental.
2. Strike quickly
Every team mentioned has the resources to make an attractive offer to the Pacers. What this may come down too is when Indiana pulls the trigger, this summer or before the February trade deadline. Flipping George this summer allows for the Pacers to acquire draft picks for the June 22nd draft, something that factors into the Blazers hand having three first round picks this week.
It's blatantly obvious that the Pacers have no leverage. None. Not even a little bit. So while the Lakers, Boston, Cleveland throw around low-ball offers of second round picks and fringe rotation players, it would behoove the Blazers to put together a package including at least two of those three first rounders. Losing George will place the Pacers in full-on rebuild mode, a status where compiling draft picks is important.
4. The Salary Cap Crunch
Paul George's salary for the 17-18 year is at $19.5 million. Allen Crabbe will be paid $19.3 and would likely be one of the more attractive players Indiana could pull from this unless the Lakers put Julius Randle on the table. The salaries still don't fully work being that Portland will still be over the projected $101 million cap line. Adding Noah Vonleh and his $3.5 million salary would take care of that.
Proposed Trade Offer
Blazers get: Paul George
Pacers get: Allen Crabbe, Noah Vonleh, Pick #15 & Pick #20 in the 17 Draft
Imagine all teams looking to acquire George like they are sitting around a poker table. When someone goes all-in on the first hand, not often does another player go all in with them for risk of losing it all, they let them collect their winnings and move on to play another hand. In order to swoop in on Paul Geoge and get the player Lillard and McCollum want, Portland will need to push all of its chips to the center of the table before everyone else even reviews their hand, and cross their fingers that everyone else blinks.