Paul George is headed to Oklahoma City to join forces with Russell Westbrook. ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported the Thunder have traded Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo to the Pacers for George.
For the past month, George has been linked to the Lakers in 2018, but it looks like the Thunder believe they have a chance of convincing George to commit to OKC long-term.
Here’s a look at the updated Thunder roster after the George trade. Their free agents are listed in italics, and the 2017 rookies are also noted as such.
C- Steven Adams, Enes Kanter,
PF- Taj Gibson (FA), Nick Collison (FA), Doug McDermott
SF- Paul George, Kyle Singler, Josh Huestis, Jerami Grant
SG- Andre Roberson (FA), Alex Abrines, Terrance Ferguson (R),
PG- Russell Westbrook, Semaj Christon, Norris Cole FA
The obvious question is who will start at shooting guard for the Thunder. Andre Roberson can slide over to the two to play with George, but Roberson is a free agent. With the addition of George, it will be interesting to see what the Thunder are willing to pay Roberson this summer.
Oklahoma City drafted Terrance Ferguson who has loads of potential. Giving Ferguson meaningful minutes right away could be problematic for the Thunder as his game still needs some polishing. They will likely look to address this hole in other ways, but it is quite a start to free agency for Oklahoma City.
George will become a free agent after the 2017-18 season. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported the Celtics could have topped the Thunder’s offer, but were not willing to do so without a long-term commitment from George.
Westbrook can also become a free agent next off-season. However, unlike George, Westbrook is eligible to sign a supermax contract extension this summer to remain with the Thunder. It allows Oklahoma City to pay an estimated $70 million more to Westbrook than any other team.
While the Thunder are the favorites to retain Westbrook, Oklahoma City is not taking that for granted. For as much as this trade was about improving their team, it was also a message to Westbrook about their willingness to get him help.
It is worth noting the Thunder traded the same two players they received last off-season from the Magic for Serge Ibaka. Like George, Ibaka was also entering the final year of his deal.
Does this deal make the Thunder a threat to the Warriors? Not yet, but the Thunder still have an entire off-season to add additional pieces. While Oladipo and Sabonis are talented players, they are worth the risk of having George for just one season. This is especially true if the Thunder can attract a couple new players as well in light of their attractive roster.