The Los Angeles Lakers’ pursuit of Indiana Pacers star Paul George isn’t going to stop getting talked about any time soon. For now, it sounds like the Pacers would rather build around George and attempt to convince him to stay instead of trading him, but that could also be a ploy to drive up leverage.
That also seems like the ideal outcome for the Lakers, as backwards as such an idea may seem on its face. For one, Lakers head coach Luke Walton has been vocal that the team shouldn’t give up multiple members of its young core of D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle and more for a star. Given that George shares an agent with Russell and Randle, his camp reportedly may want those three together in Los Angeles as well.
But while the Lakers not giving up any assets and signing George as a free agent in order to add him to the most asset-rich roster possible might seem like the ideal outcome here, it also might not be enough to lure him, at least according to the latest dispatch from Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report (emphasis mine):
One NBA executive told Bleacher Report that the current task for the Lakers in their pursuit of George is to acquire another player—the type of player who would make defecting more desirable for George. Perhaps the answer is in the draft and player development, but the Lakers may need to accelerate the process by bringing in additional help through free agency and trades. And time is of the essence.
The Lakers have a difficult choice here. From a pragmatic team-building perspective, of course it’s better for them to retain young assets to grow while competing with George. The only problem is that there is at least a chance that won’t be enough to entice George to actually come.
Star players don’t often leave teams in their prime. They even less-seldomly do so in order to play with developing teenagers.
It would be nice for the Lakers to have the best of both worlds, to rebuild while competing, but that may not be appealing enough to grab George. Whether that means the team ultimately passes on him, or decides to take their shot and see if George plus another star is enough to lure more good players to Los Angeles will be a fascinating window into the new front office’s thought process.