During a stranded-with-a-delayed-flight Twitter Q&A Thursday, Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum raised some eyebrows after a particularly candid response to the question, “Who would you like to see the Blazers go after this off season?”
For those who don’t memorize random Twitter usernames, @Yg_Trece is the Indiana Pacers’ Paul George. George, whose team was also swept out of the first round by last season’s NBA Finalist, has expressed displeasure at the state of his team, and is reportedly interested in an exit. However, there are two spanners tossed into the works:
- If the media votes George onto the All-NBA Team, he is eligible for an extra $75 million in salary provided he stays with the Pacers.
- If he does allow his contract to expire, his interest in joining the Los Angeles Lakers is, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, “Real, and widely known”.
Today the irrepressible Timmay of Gameday Thread Editing fame and Dave bat around the idea of Paul George in a Trail Blazers uniform.
If you can get Paul George without destroying your core, you have to go for it! Give up anything on your team that isn’t named Damian Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic or CJ McCollum. Or Evan Turner, I guess, because there’s no way Indy wants him back. It doesn’t matter what you’ve traded to Indiana, you suddenly have a core that can compete with anyone. You could trot out a starting lineup of Lillard, McCollum, George, a hamster, and Nurkic, and you could make the playoffs. Upgrade that hamster to a well-trained lemur, and you might have a shot at home court advantage in the first round.
Are you implying Noah Vonleh is a well-trained lemur? Because I do believe that five-some would put fear into all but the stoutest hearts in the Western Conference. We’ve talked about George in the context of trades before, largely in speculative LaMarcus Aldridge deals, but this fact bears repeating every time his name is brought up: the guy is in the Lillard-McCollum generation age-wise. He’s 26 years old. Besides that, he has sterling shooting percentages from all kinds of ranges, the True Shooting Percentage of a center in a small forward’s body, and he’s been one of the better defenders in the NBA. You want to talk on-court fit via an amazing blend of skills backed by All-Star talent? George qualifies. No argument here.
You sure you’d withhold all of the Core 3? George might merit serious consideration even if one of them was involved.
The Blazers’ “Core 3” must be off limits in a trade for George. Future draft picks? Sure. Take on a bad contract? Alright. But the point of getting George is to pair with that core, not to replace them. Besides, there are good reasons not to give up the core: Indiana will ostensibly start a rebuild when George leaves, even with Myles Turner’s ascendance. George has a player option after next season; if you pay big to get him, you have to be sure he stays. Now, if you have a handshake deal on it? Sigh. Fine. Here’s CJ, after his new contract is official. We’ll replace him at SG with Allen Crabbe and hope for the best.
Handshake deals never work though. If I had a dime for every (DeMarcus Cousins) time I wish the Blazers could guarantee (DeMarcus Cousins) somebody would stay with the team long-term (DeMarcus Cousins) I’d be able to afford George’s salary all by myself.
But seriously, you just named four reasons this deal won’t work. George’s ability to leave is one. Everybody expects the best to happen, but...41-41, right? Also taking on a bad contract? Is it even possible for the Blazers to take on worse contracts than they have? Let’s say jettisoning bad deals was a priority for Indiana. The worst they’ve got is Thaddeus Young at $14 million, then Monta Ellis around $11 million. That makes $25 million total. Allen Crabbe and Meyers Leonard would exceed that amount. Evan Turner and Ed Davis—the only real expiring contract the Blazers have—only fall $1.5 million short. And all those deals except Davis’ run as long as the contracts Indiana would be trying to give away. Honestly, the Pacers probably wouldn’t make those moves without George involved, let alone include their franchise player in them.
Reality is, the Blazers can’t absorb bad contracts without giving worse ones in return. And really, the Pacers are going to take Portland’s bloated leftovers and modest draft picks in exchange for George alone? I guess never say never, but yeesh.
But if we could dream, the key to this transaction is simple: If George re-signs, how high can this team climb? Can a theoretical starting tandem of Damian, CJ, Paul, Jusuf, and player-to-be-named later compete with San Antonio? Golden State? Well, I’m not going to make the case that anyone is “as good as the Warriors”. But Blazers coach Terry Stotts has a knack of putting his players in their best position to succeed. If he can put all four of those players in their best position to succeed, they’d be a handful for every team in the league.
No doubt. And hey, the Blazers are already paying Paul George money to Crabbe, so this should be a no-brainer if it can be done. But the chances of a non-Big-3 deal happening would cause Han Solo to cover up C-3PO’s mouth, admonishing him to never tell him the odds. I mean, I would like a flying car that also morphed into a muscle-building cheesecake on demand that replenished itself whenever I ate of it while getting incredible gas mileage and making me popular with girls in Ireland, but I don’t think I could get that.
By the way, that Solo scene has always bothered me. Covering a droid’s mouth shouldn’t...awwww, nevermind. What does everybody else think of the Paul George windstorm? Do you see any way it could get done? Would you be as bullish on it as McCollum or would you be too afraid George would bolt for the Lakers at the first opportunity? Have at it in the comment section.