The Indiana Pacers will eventually pull the trigger and trade Paul George, but they are doing their best to create leverage in a difficult situation. That means playing teams against each other in the hopes of creating a bidding war that will drive up the price.
However, the looming threat of George jumping to the Los Angeles Lakers has continued to prevent teams from offering up major assets.
An underreported aspect of the ordeal is that the Lakers are hoping to jump in at the last minute before the Pacers make a trade. They want to know what the top offer is so they can decide whether it’s worth it to increase their offer and prevent George from landing elsewhere and potentially being convinced to stay long-term, or if it’s better to simply hang on to their assets and hope to sign George as a free agent next summer. The cost is important; there has to be a breaking point where the latter makes more sense than the former. Sean Deveney of the Sporting News explained the situation:
But the Lakers still want to know the best offer the Pacers receive. According to league sources, if the Pacers get an acceptable offer from another team, the Lakers will at least be prepared to make a counteroffer and not take the chance that George lands elsewhere, which could lead to him avoiding the Lakers altogether.
Deveney brought in an anonymous general manager who explained that the Lakers jumping in last-minute is a concern, but the Lakers not jumping into trade talks might be an even bigger problem for opposing teams:
“That’s what has to worry you most,” one general manager said. “If LA is not getting involved at all, then you have to ask why. Why wouldn’t they make an offer? They did at the draft, so what changed? That is when you worry that maybe all this talk is a smokescreen and Paul George has not really changed his mind about LA.”
The implication is that, if George is still hell-bent on going to the Lakers, he will do so next summer in free agency, leaving whatever team that trades for him with nothing.
The Lakers know all too well how damaging it can be to give up assets for a player only to watch them walk out the door a year later, and that’s a situation that no NBA team wants to deal with.
As free agency kicks off, the George rumors should become more concrete. If the Lakers don’t manage to pull off a trade for him this summer, they have to cross their fingers and hope that they can convince him to sign on next year.