NBA Trade Rumor: Oklahoma City May Need To Flip Paul George In The Coming W
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Oklahoma City has struggled to win with Paul George and may have to move him by the February trading deadline as he approaches free agency. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

It wasn’t a warm homecoming at all for Paul George when he returned to Indianapolis for the first time since forcing his way out of town last summer.

Every time he touched the ball he was mercilessly booed, but that’s the least of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s worries these days. With George and Carmelo Anthony also arriving via what also looked like a second one-sided trade for the Thunder, Oklahoma City was regarded as a strong favorite to reach the Western Conference Finals for a showdown with defending champ Golden State.

But through the first third of the season, OKC has been the NBA’s most disappointing team, a sub.-500 train-wreck showing little chemistry among its three stars. Now there are questions whether the Thunder need to move George in the coming weeks before they may lose him to his home-area Los Angeles Lakers when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in July.

“The question is, what can Oklahoma City expect to get in a trade?’’ said one Eastern Conference GM. “The Lakers aren’t going to give up two young players for him now. And as for other teams, he’d strictly be a rental, if all the talk about the Lakers is still real."

In some circles, the Lakers are still considered the front-runners. The Thunder hasn’t given George many reasons to commit long-term, even after OKC GM Sam Presti was hailed for trading off four role players for George and Anthony. Reigning MVP Russell Westbrook has looked lost with George and Anthony. At the core of the problem: They’ve got three prolific scorers who are most suited for playing isolation-heavy basketball, but not for employing the team-oriented brand used so effectively by West-leading Houston and the Warriors. At 13-14, the Thunder has the 25th offensive rating, at 102.1. As a result, coach Billy Donovan has come under fire for failing to devise an effective offense. They’ve lost a host of games after squandering big leads. “At some point it’s got to stop,’’ George said earlier this week.

Presti is known for his patience, but also for thinking two steps ahead. In this case he can’t be too patient. He might need to flip George if he senses that the chemistry among his Big 3 just won’t improve and he won’t be able to re-sign George this summer.

Although he has dreamed of playing for the Lakers, George has stated he wants to compete for championships. At this stage, the Thunder is a borderline playoff team, giving him little reason to stay. The Lakers are even further from becoming a title team, but want George and could re-cast their roster in the off-season to give themselves two max-contract slots for a pair of superstars. How things play out over the next few weeks for the Thunder could determine if they have to move him.

Cleveland almost acquired George last summer before the Thunder stepped in and pulled off what was widely view as a Brink’s job, sending the inconsistent Victor Oladipo and rookie Domantas Sabonis to the Pacers. It’s unlikely the Cavs would offer anything substantial in the coming weeks since they don’t know what LeBron James’ plans are for this coming summer when he becomes a free agent. When the Pacers traded George, their failure to get so much as a second-round draft pick was widely ridiculed and the Pacers were seen as nothing more than a lottery team, with Bovada of Las Vegas setting their number at 31 ½. But they’ve exceeded expectations, posting a 16-12 record, putting them fifth in the East. They’ve shown way more late-game toughness than George’s new team, winning seven of their last eight that have been within five points in the last five minutes.

The schedule has been favorable – Indy has yet to play a road game west of Oklahoma City. Meanwhile, Oladipo has been the surprise of the NBA season. A former No. 2 overall pick by Orlando in 2013, he’s been a top athlete who has struggled as a shooter in his first four seasons. Regardless, he received a four-year, $84-million extension that pays him $21 million per starting this season. His deal was seen as a gross overpay, but explained away as merely a sign of the times in the booming NBA. Returning to Indiana, where starred in college at Indiana University, he’s blossomed as the Pacers’ featured player. He had a rare off night in George’s return, with most of his struggles a result of George’s A-1 on-the-ball defense. But overall, his three-point accuracy is at a career-high (44%) and he’s raised his scoring from 16 points per game last season to 24.5 ppg. If he maintains his production and accuracy, he’ll walk away with the Most Improved Player award.

The only area Oladipo hasn’t been able to make a difference is in the Pacers’ home attendance. As a result of trading off George and re-casting their team, they’re ranked 29th out of 30 clubs. The Pacers have drawn only 14,810 fans per game in 20,000-seat Bankers Life Fieldhouse, ahead of only rebuilding Atlanta (14,019). That’s nearly 2,000 off last year, when George, a perennial All-Star for the Pacers in his first seven seasons, was still a top draw. From that standpoint his return was a success. Even as he heard fans yell "traitor” when he stepped on the court, he helped his former team get a rare sellout.

Listen to Mitch Lawrence on SiriusXM NBA Radio on The Starting Lineup, Above The Rim, NBA Today and NBA Weekend. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Lawrence.

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Oklahoma City has struggled to win with Paul George and may have to move him by the February trading deadline as he approaches free agency. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

It wasn’t a warm homecoming at all for Paul George when he returned to Indianapolis for the first time since forcing his way out of town last summer.

Every time he touched the ball he was mercilessly booed, but that’s the least of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s worries these days. With George and Carmelo Anthony also arriving via what also looked like a second one-sided trade for the Thunder, Oklahoma City was regarded as a strong favorite to reach the Western Conference Finals for a showdown with defending champ Golden State.

But through the first third of the season, OKC has been the NBA’s most disappointing team, a sub.-500 train-wreck showing little chemistry among its three stars. Now there are questions whether the Thunder need to move George in the coming weeks before they may lose him to his home-area Los Angeles Lakers when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in July.

“The question is, what can Oklahoma City expect to get in a trade?’’ said one Eastern Conference GM. “The Lakers aren’t going to give up two young players for him now. And as for other teams, he’d strictly be a rental, if all the talk about the Lakers is still real.”

In some circles, the Lakers are still considered the front-runners. The Thunder hasn’t given George many reasons to commit long-term, even after OKC GM Sam Presti was hailed for trading off four role players for George and Anthony. Reigning MVP Russell Westbrook has looked lost with George and Anthony. At the core of the problem: They’ve got three prolific scorers who are most suited for playing isolation-heavy basketball, but not for employing the team-oriented brand used so effectively by West-leading Houston and the Warriors. At 13-14, the Thunder has the 25th offensive rating, at 102.1. As a result, coach Billy Donovan has come under fire for failing to devise an effective offense. They’ve lost a host of games after squandering big leads. “At some point it’s got to stop,’’ George said earlier this week.

Presti is known for his patience, but also for thinking two steps ahead. In this case he can’t be too patient. He might need to flip George if he senses that the chemistry among his Big 3 just won’t improve and he won’t be able to re-sign George this summer.

Although he has dreamed of playing for the Lakers, George has stated he wants to compete for championships. At this stage, the Thunder is a borderline playoff team, giving him little reason to stay. The Lakers are even further from becoming a title team, but want George and could re-cast their roster in the off-season to give themselves two max-contract slots for a pair of superstars. How things play out over the next few weeks for the Thunder could determine if they have to move him.

Cleveland almost acquired George last summer before the Thunder stepped in and pulled off what was widely view as a Brink’s job, sending the inconsistent Victor Oladipo and rookie Domantas Sabonis to the Pacers. It’s unlikely the Cavs would offer anything substantial in the coming weeks since they don’t know what LeBron James’ plans are for this coming summer when he becomes a free agent. When the Pacers traded George, their failure to get so much as a second-round draft pick was widely ridiculed and the Pacers were seen as nothing more than a lottery team, with Bovada of Las Vegas setting their number at 31 ½. But they’ve exceeded expectations, posting a 16-12 record, putting them fifth in the East. They’ve shown way more late-game toughness than George’s new team, winning seven of their last eight that have been within five points in the last five minutes.

The schedule has been favorable – Indy has yet to play a road game west of Oklahoma City. Meanwhile, Oladipo has been the surprise of the NBA season. A former No. 2 overall pick by Orlando in 2013, he’s been a top athlete who has struggled as a shooter in his first four seasons. Regardless, he received a four-year, $84-million extension that pays him $21 million per starting this season. His deal was seen as a gross overpay, but explained away as merely a sign of the times in the booming NBA. Returning to Indiana, where starred in college at Indiana University, he’s blossomed as the Pacers’ featured player. He had a rare off night in George’s return, with most of his struggles a result of George’s A-1 on-the-ball defense. But overall, his three-point accuracy is at a career-high (44%) and he’s raised his scoring from 16 points per game last season to 24.5 ppg. If he maintains his production and accuracy, he’ll walk away with the Most Improved Player award.

The only area Oladipo hasn’t been able to make a difference is in the Pacers’ home attendance. As a result of trading off George and re-casting their team, they’re ranked 29th out of 30 clubs. The Pacers have drawn only 14,810 fans per game in 20,000-seat Bankers Life Fieldhouse, ahead of only rebuilding Atlanta (14,019). That’s nearly 2,000 off last year, when George, a perennial All-Star for the Pacers in his first seven seasons, was still a top draw. From that standpoint his return was a success. Even as he heard fans yell “traitor” when he stepped on the court, he helped his former team get a rare sellout.

Listen to Mitch Lawrence on SiriusXM NBA Radio on The Starting Lineup, Above The Rim, NBA Today and NBA Weekend. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Lawrence.

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