The Indiana Pacers finally traded Paul George, but they shocked everyone by sending him to the Oklahoma City Thunder for what is viewed as a very light return. That’s not to say that Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis are bad players, but for a rebuilding team to accept an offer like that without any draft picks coming their way is surprising.
The thought had been that the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, and a handful of other teams would pursue George, and all of them were rumored to be offering deals much better than what Oklahoma City did. So why did the Pacers accept such a low offer? ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne speculated on SportsCenter:
Ramona on ESPN saying IND didn't take LAL trade bc they likely didn't want to give PG what he wanted w/out winning the trade
— Trevor Lane (@Trevor_Lane) July 1, 2017
If Shelburne’s thoughts here are accurate, then the Lakers were effectively eliminated from the George sweepstakes simply because they only wanted to give George to the Lakers if they clearly won the trade, which wasn’t a concern with other teams.
They didn’t want to give in to George and lose the deal, so instead they decided to just lose the deal, even if it meant taking a weaker offer than the Lakers’ reported deal of two first round picks (the 27th and 28th picks in this year’s draft) along with Julius Randle and some other pieces to make the money work.
Shelburne also noted that the Pacers didn’t want to send George to the East since they would have to play against him four times a year, which made completing a deal with the Celtics or Cavaliers much less appealing. The Pacers have been getting lambasted for making such a poor deal since it was announced, and if Shelburne is correct and they had better deals on the table, then that criticism won’t be going away anytime soon.