OKC Thunder Contenders After Stealing Paul George
Oklahoma City Thunder Stole Paul George
Thunder general manager Sam Presti pulled a rabbit out of his hat, nabbing PG13 despite longstanding rumors of trades to the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers. Presti provided a paltry package for the Pacers to pluck Paul George – one of the best wings in an association starved for his elite skillset.
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George And Westbrook No Longer One Man Squads
When Kevin Durant signed with the Golden State Warriors, Russell Westbrook found himself in the same position as Paul George with the Pacers. Both were elite, all-NBA superstars toiling on defence-first squads, serving as the first, second and third option for offence. Put simply, Indiana and Oklahoma City didn’t have the depth to match the firepower of top tier squads.
During the first round of the 2017 playoffs, George and Westbrook were overwhelmed. Jeff Teague and Miles Turner weren’t able to step up to help George win a game against the Cavaliers. Victor Oladipo and Enes Kanter were nearly unplayable against the Rockets, eliminating Westbrook’s offensive support while letting Houston torch the Thunder from deep.
Westbrook and George provide enough to singlehandedly qualify most teams into the playoffs. When the post season arrives, and opposition defence becomes stingy, teams focus their entire defensive strategy around Westbrook and George.
Cleveland and Houston dared the rest of the enemy rotation to step up and win, and the Thunder and Pacers responded with a single playoff win during the 2017 postseason. After disappointing endings for Indiana and OKC, the prospect of change loomed over both franchises.
Thunder Improve Lineup While Poisoning The Pacers
One of the greatest aspects of this trade for the Thunder was clearing Victor Oladipo’s contract off the books. Instead of paying $63 million over the next three years, Oklahoma City may choose to use this cap space to resign Paul George, perhaps even signing a third star to create a big three. Oladipo is a fine player in his own right, but he’s not worth the $21 million hit, which will handcuff Indiana for future free agent signings.
Domantas Sabonis could grow into a sharp shooting power forward who lines up well beside fellow big Myles Turner, but he’ll never provide as much value as PG13. Superstar calibre players like Paul George remain rare in the association, and wing players with elite offence and defence have been fetching top price for years.
A popular axiom suggests that the team which lands the best player wins the trade. In this case, the Oklahoma City Thunder didn’t just win the trade, they completely destroyed the front office of Indiana. In retrospect, Larry Bird’s resignation as team president appears perfectly timed, because he won’t field the blame for this NBA swindle.
Oklahoma Will Hustle To Keep Paul George
The combination of Paul George and Russell Westbrook should create one of the most fearsome duos in the league, similar to facing Batman and Batman, instead of Batman and Robin. Westbrook will no longer need to average a 30-point triple double to survive, and he’ll be able to throw the ball to George on a regular basis when teams try to double team.
With George on board, the Oklahoma City Thunder could end up with one of the best defences in the association, especially after resigning Andre Roberson and adding Patrick Patterson to the rotation. Westbrook, George, Adams and Roberson should drive opponents crazy, preventing teams like the Rockets and Warriors from running roughshod on offence.
The Thunder will be one of the most interesting teams to watch during the 2017-18 season, and if all proceeds well, George might end up deciding to stay instead of fleeing to the Los Angeles Lakers. GM Sam Presti performed a miracle to obtain PG13, and he would be wise to do everything in his power to retain George this year.
If Presti fails, he risks losing both George and Westbrook in 2018, fulfilling the doomsday scenario that the Thunder faced before the 2017 free agent season began.
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