Four Reasons the Paul George Trade was the Pacers’ Best Option
In a move that sparked a Twitter storm, the Indiana Pacers and the Oklahoma City Thunder completed a blockbuster trade at the beginning of the month that shipped Indiana’s unhappy star Paul George to Oklahoma City in exchange for former Indiana Hoosier Victor Oladipo and last year’s No. 11 overall pick Domantas Sabonis.
The trade almost felt spiteful. It was as if Kevin Pritchard, the President of Basketball Operation for the Pacers, thought, “Oh, you hate Indiana, Paul? Fine! Let’s see how you like it in Oklahoma.”
When the trade news broke, Twitter erupted with confused Pacers fans, outraged Boston fans who felt the Celtics missed out on a great opportunity, and stunned NBA followers who couldn’t believe Indiana had just sent George packing for such a mediocre return.
As time has passed and the trade has sunk in, it has made more sense why the Pacers choose the Thunder’s package. Here’s four reasons the Pacers’ deal with the Thunder will continue to age well:
- Oladipo will sell A LOT of jerseys and tickets during a full rebuild in Indiana
Oladipo’s rise to stardom began as an Indiana Hoosier. Behind his elite two-way play, Indiana won the 2013 Big Ten Championship and reached the Sweet Sixteen. Oladipo’s high-flying dunks, tenacity on defense and all around intensity that he brought to each and every game captured the hearts of Hoosier Nation.
In the short-term, this deal makes a lot of sense for the small market franchise. Oladipo already has a massive fan base in the Hoosier State, and his popularity will keep the fan base engaged and going to Bankers Life Fieldhouse during a rigorous rebuilding process, especially if he can put together the final pieces of his game.
The Pacers are sure to lose a lot of basketball games in the next couple of years, but Oladipo is a name that Indiana folks will proudly wear across the back of their new Nike jerseys.
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) July 28, 2017
- Boston’s draft pick package had little valuable
There’s currently a media phenomenon of overvaluing first round picks. The depth in the 2017 Draft was an anomaly; rarely do players outside of the lottery hit.
The Boston Celtics may have been offering three first round picks (they probably weren’t), but they certainly we not lottery picks. Since 2010, Jimmy Butler and Rudy Gobert are the only late-first round picks to reach All Star caliber. Once you get past the top 10-15 picks, the draft is filled with back-of-the-bench players, not hidden gems like fans like to hope and pray for. The Pacers would have been lucky to get someone as good as Taj Gibson with any of the picks the Celtics were offering.
But, in trading with OKC, the Pacers added two recent lottery picks.
Oladipo was taken No. 2 overall in 2013. Still just 25 years old, Oladipo saw success in his first three seasons in Orlando. He’s skilled at getting to the hoop, and he had the opportunity to develop playmaking skills while spending a lot of time at point guard with the Magic.
He struggled to find his rhythm in Oklahoma City last year, but it’s difficult to share a backcourt with the historically ball-dominant Russell Westbrook. Oladipo was often asked to spot up from behind the three point line, a poor utilization of the slashing guard’s skill set.
Sabonis, just 21 years old, was selected No. 11 overall just last year. The 6-foot-10 stretch-forward showed flashes early in the season, but the long 82-game season weighed on the rookie, and he started to fall off a bit.
The potential to be a starting power forward is certainly still there. As a rookie, Sabonis averaged 10.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per 36 minutes. There will be plenty of minutes to go around for Sabonis in Indiana, and he will have an opportunity to develop his entire game on a team that will rely on him for scoring and defense, instead of putting him in the corner while Westbrook does his thing.
- The Jimmy Butler trade dropped George’s trade value
Just a week prior to the George trade, the Chicago Bulls traded Jimmy Butler to Minnesota for Kris Dunn, who had a very disappointing rookie season, Zach LaVine, who tore his ACL in February, and moving up nine spots in the draft.
That’s an abysmal haul for an All-NBA talent, and teams negotiating with Indiana were able to point to that trade as the market value for a player of George’s caliber.
The Pacers lost the little negotiating power they had when George publicly stated his desire to sign with the Lakers as a free agent in 2018. Teams negotiating with Indiana knew he was a one-year rental, driving his value below Butler’s.
The Lakers weren’t willing to give up assets for a player that plans to sign with them in a year anyway, and the Celtics weren’t willing to overpay for what’s likely one season of George. Oklahoma City’s package became the best business decision for the franchise, which leads me to my final point.
- Oladipo and Sabonis were the best long-term package offered
On paper, Boston’s reported offer of Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder is better. They are proven NBA starters at a low cost, and Bradley is arguably the best defensive guard in the league. It’s true that Boston’s duo is better today, and the addition of mid-to-late-round picks makes the Celtics’ offer tantalizing.
However, there’s no reason for the Pacers to think Bradley and Crowder have any desire to stick around for a rebuild. It’s more than likely that both players would leave when they reach unrestricted free agency: Bradley in 2018 and Crowder in 2020.
Indiana has considerably more long-term control over Oladipo and Sabonis. Oladipo is signed through 2021, and Sabonis reaches restricted free agency in 2020, giving the Pacers power to match any deal Sabonis signs and retain him. Oladipo and Sabonis could be 10-year starters in Indiana, and each will be happy playing in the Hoosier State. The Pacers need to invest in talent that wants to be there, and the front office found that in Oladipo.
The Pacers’ best strategy at this point might be to tank for a top three draft pick or two. In a weak Eastern Conference, bringing on Bradley and Crowder could result in too many wins and remaining in late-lottery limbo. The addition of Oladipo and Sabonis gives the Pacers an opportunity to strike gold in the lottery over the next couple seasons, while the young core develops and grows together.
Could the Pacers have gotten a better deal for Paul George? Maybe. Not getting a draft pick from the Thunder gave the fan base a bad taste in its mouth in the moment, but time will prove the Pacers got the best out of a bad situation. The franchise can build around a beloved Hoosier who wants to be there, while keeping the fan base engaged during a full roster teardown.