Within a few hours before the start of free agency, Paul George was finally traded from the Indiana Pacers. The shocker was that it wasn’t to the Los Angeles Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets or Boston Celtics like many of us had expected. Instead, it was to the Oklahoma City Thunder, as Indiana sent their All Star forward to OKC in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
Heading into the summer, the Thunder were never mentioned as a possible landing spot for Paul George, especially given his reported desires to play for the Lakers and his reported willingness to play long-term in Cleveland if LeBron James stayed put.
Instead, one year after they lost Kevin Durant in free agency to the Golden State Warriors, they are able to get some retribution with this trade. And it was a steal for the Thunder; even the Oklahoma City Police Department made mention of it on Twitter late Friday night.
Many had expected that a trade of Paul George would cost draft picks; especially from the Lakers, Cavaliers or Rockets. The Indiana Pacers reportedly had a potential deal with the Celtics that would have landed them several draft picks for George, but the trade never materialized.
Instead, the Thunder simply moved two players and shed payroll on top of it. Oladipo was set to make $21 million per year over the next four seasons. Paul George will make $19 million this season before he hits free agency next year. So not only do the Thunder land an All Star in George, but they also save a bit on pay roll as well.
Sure, this is likely a one-year rental for Oklahoma City with Paul George, especially since his desires to play for the Lakers are well known. But the reason why the Thunder won big with this trade is the fact that they didn’t have to mortgage their future.
No draft picks were given up and yet, the Thunder found a way to make themselves an even better team. Teaming Paul George with Russell Westbrook alone is worth the price of admission. Put Enes Kanter and Steven Adams and the Thunder have something solid to work with as a Western Conference contender.
Adding Paul George might not be enough to make them a contender to take down the Warriors, but it puts them in a better situation than they were three months ago when they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. With Paul George now in OKC, it gives the Thunder a serious chance to make a deep run again in the Western Conference.
And if they do lose him to free agency and likely to the Lakers next summer, then all it cost them was two players and some salary. But the Thunder aren’t thinking that far ahead.
Their current thought process is like a poker player pushing his entire pile of chips to the center of the table. Because for the 2017-2018 season, the Oklahoma City Thunder are all in on the season. The trade for Paul George definitely shows that.