A major part of the reason Paul George isn't on the Los Angeles Lakers yet is how confident the team is that he'll eventually end up there.
Sam Amick of USA Today has been on top of the reports on George's reported discontent with the Indiana Pacers and how "hell-bent" the Southern California native is on returning home to put on the purple and gold. He has even reportedly been asking players like LeBron James and Klay Thompson to join him.
Because of those reports (and likely other information they're probably getting through back channels) the Lakers have been content to not offer up much for George, heading into the 2017 NBA Draft with an offer of one of Jordan Clarkson or Julius Randle along with their No. 27 and No. 28 picks. Those picks have been made/traded for other picks, but it's likely the Lakers have a similar offer on the table and that Indiana is still balking.
That's probably the correct approach for the Lakers given their obvious leverage, but amid reports teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards might trade for George, it's worth noting that the always plugged-in Amick is now reporting that there's at least a chance George would commit to a franchise other than the Lakers:
Hell-bent as he is on signing with the Lakers, George - according to a person with knowledge of his situation - is also the kind of prudent professional who won’t close a window of opportunity prematurely. So if the Cavs can convince Pritchard to either take on four-time All-Star forward Kevin Love or send him to a third team in exchange for more suitable assets, then George will play his heart out alongside LeBron James and remain open to the idea of re-signing next summer if James were also to return (or, perhaps, George could leave for Los Angeles with James at his side).
Ditto for the Celtics or the San Antonio Spurs, teams that could fulfill George’s desire for title contention and thus put themselves in the running. And should the Lakers come along and trade for him early to ensure he doesn’t fall in love with another team, then so be it. The person spoke with USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation.
The Rockets, following their trade for Chris Paul, also think they can get in on the action:
Source on Rockets: "They think they are getting Carmelo or Paul George."— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) June 28, 2017
George being increasingly willing to commit to another team obviously isn't ideal for the Lakers pursuit of him, but this also could be an effort of the Pacers and/or George's camp to convince Los Angeles to pony up just a little bit more to get George to his preferred destination.
Yes, the Lakers are taking a risk in not upping thier offer for George. He very well could get traded to a winning situation and find happiness, re-sign there and end the Lakers' pursuit of him.
But the grass is always greener on the other side, and if George spends the year with the almost surely lottery-bound Lakers he could sour on the team and leave anyway, which is exactly why the team can't get Dwight Howard-ed again here.
Put simply, the Lakers can't offer up much more here than what they've already thrown on the table without seriously mortgaging their future. The team might be able to toss Larry Nance, Jr. or Ivica Zubac in the deal, but if the Pacers start talking about Brandon Ingram or Lonzo Ball, the Lakers have to hang up.
Los Angeles can't win a bidding war for George without seriously gambling, and so the team may just have to wait, hope and cross their fingers that George's desire to play in LA scares teams off or overrides any good vibes he gets from whatever team he is traded to.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here, or listen to us discuss the George situation below), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.