News broke on Sunday that Paul George had informed the Indiana Pacers that he intended to leave them in the summer of 2018 and preferred to join the Los Angeles Lakers. That report was quickly followed by news that the Lakers did not intend to trade any of their young core for George.
That’s all well and good, but what should they do? I (Harrison) gave my thoughts here, and I polled our staff of writers for an emergency roundtable on what path the team should take moving forward.
Do you think the Lakers should trade for Paul George or wait for free agency?
I've gone back and forth on this a few times. On one hand, if you can get him by waiting a year (during which you won't be contending anyway) without giving up any assets, that would be swell.
On the other hand, a lot can change between now and July 2018. If you can get him in LA now and seemingly committed to staying, that's something that should be incredibly appealing to the Lakers and the new front office.
I think the Lakers should trade for George despite the obvious advantage of being able to wait until the summer of 2018 at no cost. The caveat, obviously, is the price has to be right in this scenario. Magic Johnson should explore every possible avenue to land George that doesn't involve burning any of their top-tier assets, but it's hard to figure out whether Indiana would be willing to do that.
Why trade? I think there's value in getting the ball rolling on all fronts as quickly as possible, and while waiting to get him at the cost of nothing is the most efficient way to go about things, I think paying a reasonable tax to accelerate the process is palatable.
Wait for free agency. Paul George is a fantastic player but he is not a be-all, end-all talent for whom you should mortgage your entire roster in order to get. The rebuilding process will continue unabated if George doesn't end up coming in 2018, and while that would suck after so much interest has been drummed up about the possibility of him wearing the purple-and-gold, the Lakers simply aren't in a position to surrender significant assets for a win-now move.
Now, if you can reasonably convince me that getting George leads to possible interesting free agent combinations (cough) LeBron (cough), then it's a very different conversation, but that's not only unlikely, but also a hard thing to throw the very integrity of your rebuilding process upon.
The smart play is to throw out a low-ball offer (since at a certain point, the bird in hand factor becomes compelling) and continue developing the young core that has to end up playing with George anyways.
The Lakers should go for it. A year is an awful long time for a new contender for George to emerge, especially with the Boston Celtics having recently acquired even more assets to upgrade their team. I'd prefer to sign Paul George in free agency because he'd only be eligible for a 4-year max instead of a 5-year deal if the Lakers possess his Bird rights, but it's too risky to wait.
What is the most you would give up for George in a trade?
This is also a really tough one to answer. Obviously Indiana doesn't have a ton of leverage here, so I would avoid including the #2 pick and D'Angelo Russell. I also would be quite hesitant to include Ingram - but that may be the piece they would need to make the trade.
I personally would, however, be willing to talk on a deal that includes a sort of package involving Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and the No. 28 pick. I'm not sure how many of those pieces would need to be included, or even if all three would even get it done, but those are the pieces I'd be willing to lose. If all three of those were in it, or if any of the other big pieces mentioned above were in it, LA should try and see if Indiana would take on one of the albatross Luol Deng or Timofey Mozgov contracts.
A deal centered around the No. 28 pick, Jordan Clarkson and some package of future picks makes sense from the Lakers' standpoint, but there's a reasonable chance to believe Indiana could find a more lucrative offer from another team willing to take on the risk of George leaving as a free agent.
As far as the young core, Ivica Zubac and Larry Nance, Jr. should definitely be on the table, though losing Leapin’ Larry would be painful. Clarkson, Nance, Jr., No. 28 and a future draft picks package feels like the closest both sides can get, though that might not get it done.
Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle. And with George all but nuking Indiana's leverage here, you wonder whether including Randle is too much, but I'd generally be okay with this in order to get George on the team and obtain the (overrated but still somewhat valuable) benefit of the fifth year to offer.
The Lakers probably will explore scenarios such as trying to dump Luol Deng on Indiana or keeping the deal centered on Clarkson with Indiana's leverage so destroyed at this point, although we'll see how much the front office values certain members of the young core and to what degree they want George.
At any rate, Clarkson is superfluous and doesn't fit what the offense will look like with Lonzo Ball here, and while Randle could with another skill jump, dealing him opens the way to Ingram at the four where he likely will end up in the long-term anyway.
I feel like a hypocrite saying the Lakers should go for it, and then being unwilling to offer Ingram, Russell, or the No. 2 pick, but hey, Lakers exceptionalism. I'd be willing to part with Randle, Clarkson, and the 28th pick for George.
What do you think the Lakers should do? Let us know in the comments below!