Frustrated Pacers fans who are constantly refreshing Twitter on their phones–that includes me–are probably sitting around wondering which rumors are valid and which ones are “Fake News.” It’s tough to tell news from noise in the age of social media and when emotions run high in the wake of a devastating announcement from a beloved franchise star, it gets even harder.
Have no fear, loyal readers! We here at Blue HQ are more than ready to gather up the rumors, filter them and let you know what’s need-to-know. So, which teams are actually involved in real discussions with Indy right now?
So far, the one team we can safely say has had active discussions with the Pacers is Cleveland. Yahoo Sports reporter Adrian Wojnarowski–the gold standard of basketball journalists, in this writer’s opinion–has said that of the “multiple” teams that Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard has spoken to, the Cavs are the only one he can identify.
According to Wojnarowski, Cleveland believes that they won’t be renting George because they feel LeBron James and Co. can effectively convince PG13 that the Cavs will be the Golden State Warriors of the Eastern Conference with him on board. Such is their faith in themselves that, per Sam Amico of Amico Hoops, they’re putting together a deal with “multiple players involved.”
While none of these other players have been named, that report is substantial because it contradicts the popular opinion that the Cavs will try to get Indy to settle for a Paul George-for-Kevin Love swap. That said, Cleveland is a team that is so depleted of draft picks that they have very little that might interest a rebuilding team, which the Pacers will likely be in the post-Paul George era.
With Love having only one more year left on his deal than George, it would be in Indy’s best interest to involve a third team that Love would be more interested in playing for; whether or not this is what the “multiple players involved” bit refers to remains to be seen.
One thing is clear: Cleveland really wants George to be part of their next run at the Warriors. And if the Pacers absolutely have to get PG13 out of town before the draft starts on Thursday, this might be their best chance at a deal.
But what about George’s preferred free agent landing spot? Why, as the national media keeps saying, would L.A. make a deal for someone they can just sign a year from now? What sense does that make?
It boils down to whether or not the Pacers trade George this year and where he ends up. The Lakers might be putting together an amazing pitch for the summer of 2018, but if PG13 winds up somewhere other than Indy this offseason, the team that gets him will have an extra year to recruit him without any worries about tampering.
Those concerns might already be manifesting themselves inside Laker headquarters. Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer indicated that the Lakers would “jump in if discussions on a deal” between Cleveland and Indiana “progressed far enough.” If that happens, the Pacers would almost certainly be more likely to talk to L.A., who can offer a better package of picks and players without the need for a third team being involved.
Further supporting that argument is the new revelation from Amico that the Lakers have spoken to several teams, including the Detroit Pistons, about acquiring an additional lottery pick. Combined with a fresh report from ESPN’s Chad Ford that the Lakers are guaranteeing UCLA guard Lonzo Ball that he’ll be the #2 overall pick, it’s starting to sound like the Lakers want to put together a package that can meet Indy’s demand of “a guaranteed starter, plus two first rounders” that was reported by TNT’s David Aldridge in a way that won’t force them to surrender that #2 pick.
A hypothetical package of the Pistons’ first rounder, the Rockets’ first rounder (which now belongs to the Lakers), and one of L.A.’s young players would be more than enough to meet Indy’s reported demands. At this point, however, whether L.A. even becomes involved at all is contingent on other teams interest. On that note…
The biggest development of the day (so far) in the PG13 Sweepstakes is the report from Sean Deveney of The Sporting News that the Clippers are ready to jump in on a Paul George deal if one isn’t done before the Draft. According to Deveney, they’re hoping to sign-and-trade one of their three high profile free agents in order to get the deal done.
Like the Cavs situation, this one almost guarantees that a third team gets involved, since it’s unlikely the Pacers will have any interest in absorbing any of the massive contracts that Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and JJ Redick are going to draw if they hit free agency. Also, like Cleveland, the Clippers have very little in the way of young talent or draft picks to offer Indiana in return.
If either the Clippers or Cavs are seeking a third team, it will have to be someone close to contending who has first round picks to spare. The obvious choice would be Boston, who have an arsenal of picks and a clear need at power forward that either Love or Griffin could fill, but it’s worth asking why they’d get involved in a Paul George trade that didn’t involve Paul George.
This past February, then-Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird said that he had heard and rejected multiple bids to trade for George, one of which was from Boston. So there’s at least some validity to thinking that they’d still be interested, especially if they share the Lakers’ sentiment that PG13 winding up in Cleveland could prevent him from becoming a free agent next year.
That said, it must be noted here that there have been no legitimate reports suggesting that Boston is making another run at George now. The closest thing to a rumor with any weight is a hypothetical posed by O’Connor after ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported that the Pacers want to “move fast on a deal” to trade George.
O’Connor, who has spent a lot of time over the last few days analyzing the deal in which Boston traded the #1 overall pick to the Philadelphia 76ers, said that it would be “worth asking why Boston moved so quick” to make this deal, implying that the extra pick Boston added to its already massive stash is part of an impending offer for a player of George’s caliber; again, this is strictly a hypothetical, albeit from someone who has looked at the situation closely and spoken to the key individuals involved.
Stay tuned to Blue HQ Media for further updates; if any more verified reports are filed, including reports of an actual deal, you can find them here.