The NFL is notorious for having a 365-day sports news cycle, but with professional basketball being as popular as it’s ever been since Michael Jordan played for the Chicago Bulls, the NBA could soon be joining pro football in that regard.
Exhibit A occurred this past weekend, as the NBA stole much of the sports spotlight while the U.S. Open played out and other leagues were in full swing.
Notably, this was because the Philadelphia 76ers reportedly landed a deal with the Boston Celtics to acquire the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, per Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, in order to presumably draft University of Washington guard Markelle Fultz.
Before that news could even be digested, numerous rumors and news items broke about Indiana Pacers superstar Paul George.
One has to wonder if the NBA will start consistently joining the NFL in stealing the offseason headlines in future years, but until then, here’s a look at the latest news and trade rumors surrounding the fallout from the 76ers-Celtics deal and George.
Philadelphia and Boston Still Looking To Make Deals?
According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, it’s possible that Philadelphia and Boston aren’t done making moves just yet.
Focusing on Boston for a moment, one has to wonder whether this would open the door for further Jimmy Butler talks. It seems like the Celtics and Butler have been connected in some trade rumor or another for the past 20 years (more like a couple, but it feels like 20). K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune threw some cold water on that idea for now, though:
“As of Sunday, the talk is based more on speculation than reality, a stance that at least three league executives the Tribune spoke to over the weekend don’t expect to change by Thursday. There is plenty of belief within the league and the Bulls organization that the Celtics are poised to use the No. 3 pick Thursday and then pursue Jazz All-Star Gordon Hayward in free agency come July.”
Johnson’s proposal is probably the right play. The NBA draft is stacked with elite talent next year, and anyone picking in the top half of the lottery is going to get someone who could contribute immediately.
If the Celtics stick at No. 3, they can take a great scorer like wing Jayson Tatum or a phenomenal two-way player in forward Josh Jackson.
They can even pull a wild card and pick 6’11” Jonathan Isaac, who can play power forward and might have higher upside than Tatum and Jackson long term.
If the C’s can land Hayward and pick up an elite prospect at No. 3 who can go in the rotation off the bench, the Celtics would then have arguably the deepest team in the NBA.
George and the Cleveland Cavaliers
According to Wojnarowski, not only has George told the Indiana Pacers that he will leave the team when he becomes a free agent in 2018, but his most likely destination is the Los Angeles Lakers.
With that being the case, the Pacers obviously don’t want to lose George for nothing in return, so Indiana Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard is likely trying to make a move, especially with the draft coming up.
One of those teams could be a division rival. Here’s Wojnarowski with more:
“In the past 24 hours, Pritchard has become more aggressive in pursuing trades for George, league sources told The Vertical. Pritchard has yet to show an inclination to engage the Lakers, but has discussed deals with several teams—including Cleveland—in which the expectation of teams would be that George is a ‘one-year rental.’ The Cavaliers are devoid of the kind of young players and future picks that Indiana might want in return for George, and George has never mentioned the Cavaliers as an intriguing destination.”
The last line is the kicker. What kind of package could Cleveland offer that would intrigue the Pacers enough to trade away their franchise superstar to a division rival?
It’s hard to fathom, admittedly, but there is a lot of smoke about this potential deal. Here is Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio with more:
Still, if the Pacers are in a situation where they need to get anything for George before losing him for nothing in free agency, one has to wonder whether they’d settle for a lesser deal from Cleveland.
Per Zach Lowe of ESPN, it looks like the Pacers want to move on quickly at this point:
The guess here is that a trade happens quickly but with a secret team that has not been mentioned yet.
George to the Lakers One Year Early?
With George’s rumored interest in playing for the Lakers when his contract runs out in 2018, Los Angeles has no need to try to trade off assets now when they can just sign George to a free-agent deal in a year.
However, the Lakers could also look to make a gigantic splash for the beginning of the Magic Johnson/Rob Pelinka era and get George into town right away.
Per Shelburne, though, it doesn’t seem particularly likely. Here’s the latest via ESPN.com’s news services: “Although George would constitute a significant acquisition for Los Angeles, the rebuilding Lakers do not currently intend to part with any of their young assets in a trade with the Pacers, sources told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.”
Although Los Angeles struggled last season, finishing with just 26 wins and 56 losses, five key members of their rotation (Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr.) will range in age from 20 to 24 years old at the start of the 2017-18 season.
The smart play is to let them grow and develop together for a year and see what happens. Then, if George is still interested in playing for L.A. (it’s hard to imagine that not being the case, especially considering that he is originally from Southern California), then you can add him as the centerpiece to a developing (and presumably improved) young and energetic core of players.
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