WASHINGTON — Nobody does the offseason like the NBA.
The season ended just a week ago, the draft is on Thursday and free agency begins on July 1, but hardly a day has passed that we haven’t had some sort of drama — and we’re not settling for petty stuff like LeBron James and Draymond Green exchanging barbs.
The Boston Celtics appear to have opened the floodgates by trading the No. 1 overall pick to the Philadelphia 76ers, who appear to be taking the next step in The Process. The Celtics now have an abundance of draft picks in the coming years the likes of which the NBA might have never before seen.
And now, things are really heating up.
Sunday evening, reports emerged that Indiana Pacers star Paul George had told the team he planned to leave town after this coming season, his last under contract. Immediately following that news, word got out that the Pacers were shopping the talented wing, trying to pick up some value for him before he leaves for nothing.
It seemed the next few days would be all about who would make the move for George, if one was completed. The rumors immediately led to the Cleveland Cavaliers, as expected, but other teams emerged.
And then, suddenly, the conversation swung to Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler, who was previously linked to George a year ago when both players were subject of trade rumors — each with the Celtics. Butler was quickly tied to the Cavaliers and the Minnesota Timberwolves, but reports also came out that both the Sixers and Celtics were potentially interested in making additional moves.
Whether those additional moves, if they come to being, concern George or Butler is unknown, but it seems foolish to discount the possibility.
With all of that madness — and there was plenty of additional talk that was exempted from this synopsis for the sake of brevity — it would have been easy to overlook this one subtle detail, coming from TNT’s David Aldridge.
“Washington, to a lesser degree, could fit the bill, too, and the Wizards are looking for a way to make a George deal happen. They don’t have a player of Love’s caliber to put in a deal; they’re not moving Bradley Beal after the 23-year-old just had his best NBA season. Playing alongside Washington’s backcourt of Beal and John Wall, after all, would be the selling point for George in D.C.
Wizards small forward Otto Porter also had his best season and would almost certainly have to be in a potential George deal for it to make any sense for Indiana, but he’s a restricted free agent and would lose tens of millions of dollars if he agreed to a sign-and-trade deal with anyone this summer (fewer years, smaller yearly raises) instead of re-signing with Washington. There’s literally no incentive for anyone to do a sign-and-trade anymore, which was the point of changing the CBA — to make it easier rather than harder for teams to keep their own players.”
Aldridge, who resides in D.C., transitions from the commonly-reported reprise of the Cavaliers pursuing Paul George to — what’s this? — the Wizards are looking into a blockbuster deal of their own?
As Aldridge notes, this deal seems unlikely to happen given Washington’s very limited collection of assets. The only two truly high-end pieces right now are John Wall and Bradley Beal; Wall isn’t going anywhere, and it would be tough to see the Wizards swapping Beal for George at all, especially if the latter doesn’t agree to a contract extension before coming to Washington.
But a deal centered around Otto Porter makes sense, at least in theory. Porter, who just turned 24, is a restricted free agent. He is coming off something of a breakout season in which he averaged career highs in shooting from every area (2-pointers, 3-pointers and free throws), points, rebounds, blocks and minutes.
He is nowhere near Paul George’s caliber, but Porter has improved consistently each season he’s been in the league, and there are plenty of worse players to make part of a new, young core. It’s also certainly possible to see him improve and expand his game on a team with less offensive talent than the Wizards have, though it’s not easy going from John Wall as your setup man to whoever the Pacers have as their starting point guard next year.
Indiana would obviously want more than just Porter in a trade for one of the league’s premier wings, but considering the leverage they appear to have lost by George’s comments leaking out, perhaps their return won’t be as great as some expect. Granted, Porter still won’t suffice, but Porter and a future first-rounder or two might be enough.
That, of course, depends on how highly the Pacers value Porter, and what anybody else is willing to give up for George, who has reportedly declared a desire to join his hometown Los Angeles Lakers on several occasions. After all, whoever trades for George is, in theory, getting just one season of his talents.
Would the Wizards give up the possibility of building around Wall, Beal and Porter for the future in exchange for a year of George? You’d have to think so, especially considering the caliber of free agents they could potentially lure on discounts with that kind of talent assembled.
Joining Wall, Beal and Porter is a somewhat attractive prospect for a free agent. Joining Wall, Beal and George, however, is a far more appealing option, especially for a veteran who might only be looking for a one-year deal.
And if any team in the Eastern Conference can challenge LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers next season, the team headed by John Wall, Bradley Beal and Paul George would have to be considered the favorite.