Here in the Sooner State, Oklahomans have been feeling good about Russell Westbrook winning the MVP, while facing up to the fact that the Thunder is never going to be competitive against the Golden State Warriors, thanks to our previous hero, Kevin Durant, bolting for the big lights and championship rings of a superteam.
Then suddenly, against all expectations, one of the biggest NBA talents, four-time All Star Paul George joined the Thunder!
Everybody wanted him. But Thunder General Manager and deal-making genius Sam Presti engineered a trade with the Indianapol, getting George in exchange for two players. And in doing so, he saved money, getting under the salary cap and making possible even more acquisitions.
The basketball world is wondering how the Pacers gave him up for so little and why they took Presti’s offer instead of the better ones being made by other teams.
George is signed for another year, but told the Pacers he wouldn’t be resigning because he wants to end up the Los Angeles. They traded him to get something for him. Of course, the Thunder are now in the same position. They will probably only have him for one year. But this shows Westbrook that the team means to win and can be an incentive for him to sign the 5 year supermax contract. Or, both players could go to L.A., where both of them are from.
But still, this gives the Thunder at least one year with two great players.
Paul George is said to be on the same level as Kevin Durant. And he complements Westbrook perfectly. He also makes up for Thunder weaknesses–namely, perimeter defense and 3-point shooting.
So maybe Oklahoma City will build a superteam. Then again, by picking up another superstar with two first names, Chris Paul, to join James Harden, Houston may also become a superteam.
But at least Golden State will have some competition next year.
After the jump, some experts assess the trade.
From Mike Prada, Five Winners and Five Losers from a chaotic start to free agency, SB Nation:
Oklahoma City Thunder
What a difference a few hours makes. As they entered free agency, the Thunder were staring at a hefty luxury-tax bill, a bloated cap sheet for years to come, and a superstar with one year left on his contract and no sidekick in sight. Losing Kevin Durant was bad enough. Playing out Russell Westbrook’s prime with an expensive roster that had no chance to support him in any meaningful way was arguably worse.
And then Sam Presti won the Paul George sweepstakes when nobody expected he would.
This could all fall apart if George departs for the Lakers next year and Westbrook leaves soon thereafter, but now the Thunder have a real chance. They were going nowhere fast and will never sign a talent like George outright in free agency. Now, they have a year to convince George he can win in Oklahoma City, which they should do plenty of even in a deep West.
That’s a hell of a lot better than the alternative path of staying the course.
He won’t be outgunned anymore. George is close to the player Durant was and should be even more willing to defer ball-handling to Westbrook.