Making his first appearance since the trade, Paul George was introduced by the Thunder at a news conference, Wednesday, in Oklahoma City. As he stood there posing in his number 13 jersey, George’s arrival marked a new beginning for the Thunder organization.
While Durant went on to create one of the NBA’s most unstoppable teams in history, the Thunder were left trying to pick up the pieces to stay relative in the Western Conference. Thanks in large part to a historic MVP season by Russell Westbrook, the Thunder stayed competitive in the wake of losing Durant.
They finished the season as one of the league’s most electrifying teams, and sixth in the Western Conference with 47 wins. Even though they got eliminated by the Houston Rockets in five games, the Thunder overachieved following the loss of Durant.
Fast forward a year later, Oklahoma City has re-established themselves as one of the NBA’s top contenders this summer acquiring four-time all-star Paul George. While his departure from Indiana did not come to no one’s surprise, what was shocking as the team George was traded too.
Following the news that George and his agent had informed the Pacers that he plans to leave the team next summer, Indiana had immediately begun shopping his services around the league. George had many suitors around the Association trying to land his talents, but he was only committed to signing a long-term deal with his hometown Los Angeles Lakers.
— NBA (@NBA) July 12, 2017
George has expressed his desire to play for his hometown countless of times and is expected to sign with the club at the conclusion of next season. With George so hell-bent on playing in Los Angeles, the Lakers should have been the first team (and the only) willing to trade for the California native.
Following Kobe Bryant‘s retirement last season, the Lakers were one of the NBA’s most irreverent teams. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2013 and are in the worst stretch of their rich history.
It’s understandable why Magic Johnson refuse to make a move for George, but the summer of 2018 doesn’t look too promising if your two best players are damn near college students.
With Geroge now a member of the Thunder, feelings and emotions can change drastically within a year. And given how great the Thunder can become, the Lakers will regret not trading for their hometown prodigy when they had the chance.
In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, George said that his desire to play for the Lakers was an overstatement and that his number one focus is winning. He also said that a phenomenal season with the Thunder will change his mind about leaving next summer.
Just think about it, why would Geroge leave a team that will contend for a title every year, for a team that will put him in the same position as he was with the Pacers? Not too sure how everyone else feels, but the Thunder is already the second-best team in the Western Conference.
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) July 11, 2017
Westbrook may not be the easiest player to play with on the nightly basis, but pairing him with George may create a dangerous duo than he and Durant. For starters, George isn’t a ball dominant wing player like Durant. In fact, George’s game is almost tailor made to play with Westbrook.
Last season, he averaged 6.7 points and shot 32.8 percent from behind the arc when playing on the ball. When compared to his play off the ball, George averaged 7.4 points and shot 42.0 percent from behind the arc in catch and shoot situations. Just these stats alone will prove how much more efficient George’s scoring will become playing with Westbrook.
Sure, Ball’s playmaking abilities can give George great looks in Los Angeles, but Ball will not force their opponents defense to collapse like Westbrook can. So George would find himself once again carrying the load on the offensive end like in Indiana.
Regardless of what was said, the Oklahoma City Thunder gives Paul George his best chance at winning a title now and in the near future. At the end of the day, only time will tell whether George will stay in Oklahoma or leave for the bright lights of Hollywood.
George averaged 23.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 1.6 steals in 75 games for the Indiana Pacers this past season.