Although LeBron James figures to be the most sought-after 2018 NBA free agent, he’ll be closely followed by Paul George. The duo, along with DeMarcus Cousins, have long been pegged as the creme of this summer’s free agency class.
Cousins’ standing slipped somewhat with his season-ending Achilles injury, but the talented big man should still field plenty of interest. Armed with the most salary cap space available, the Los Angeles Lakers are expected to be major players in free agency.
It’s believed their focus will lie on convincing James and George to team up in Los Angeles, a possibility the All-Stars are expected to discuss among themselves.
The Lakers may have better odds to sign George than they do James, in large part to a longstanding belief he’s set on returning to his Southern California roots. That sentiment is what led the Indiana Pacers to trading George last offseason.
Despite that, Adrian Wojnarowski reported on ESPN’s “NBA Draft: On the Clock” special that the Oklahoma City Thunder very much remain in contention to re-sign George, while the Houston Rockets will make a strong effort to acquire him:
“Like LeBron James, any place he’d tell a team, ‘I’d like to come,’ they’d create salary cap space for him. But, Oklahoma City has done a great job on selling him on a future there. He liked playing with Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams and Billy Donovan. They have a real opportunity to keep him, but the Lakers are home. He grew up in L.A. and when he left Indiana, his plan was that he would be in L.A. in a year. So you have to credit Oklahoma City for really turning his head on that. … And Houston will be aggressive to try to see if there’s a way to get him there.
Up until recently, the Rockets were believed to have their attention on pursuing James. He’s close friends with Chris Paul, and the thought of forming a “big three” with the All-Star point guard and James Harden is believed to be alluring to James.
Although he may still be Houston’s priority, recent indications are they very much are interested in possibly signing George. Adding any free agent on a max-contract will prove challenging given their financial landscape.
The same applies to the Thunder because of the player option Carmelo Anthony is expected to exercise. One executive opined the small-market team would not be able to withstand the financial commitment of Anthony remaining on the roster and George being re-signed.
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