The Celtics and Pacers were engaging in early dialogue on a possible Paul George trade, and Boston seemed willing to include the swap rights on the Nets’ 2017 first-round pick in the package, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. However, a deal ultimately didn’t get done.
The Celtics were also embroiled in a similar staring match with talks involving Chicago All-Star Jimmy Butler, though the sticking point in that deal reportedly was Jae Crowder. As always, it was unclear if the Bulls and Pacers were even seriously putting their stars on the table or if they were just soliciting offers without any intention of moving them.
ESPN sources say Indy ownership felt compelled to hear out Paul George suitors but that Larry Bird was determined to swat away all pitches.— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 23, 2017
Boston has a treasure trove of assets to include in any deal for a superstar, but it’s unclear if they’ll throw any of their prized future first-round picks onto the table in the future. The Nets currently have the league’s worst record, so there’s a 25 percent chance that 2017 pick will be No. 1 overall. Boston also has Brooklyn’s 2018 first-round pick outright, as well as future draft picks from the Grizzlies and Clippers.
Plus, Boston has a number of solid rotation players to include in any deal (Crowder, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart) and a couple expiring contracts to make the money work (Amir Johnson and Tyler Zeller). But that wasn’t enough to get a deal done.
Why a deal almost got done
The Celtics had all the assets, and if they were already willing to consider the 2017 pick from the Nets, that’s more than they’ve reportedly done in the past.
The Celtics still have time to use all those draft picks, but they may have less time than most expect. The Celtics signed 31-year-old Al Horford to a maximum contract last summer and will need to give Isaiah Thomas a raise following the 2018 season.
The Pacers’ motivation to trade George was less clear, but if they believe he will leave after the 2018 season, it was better to recoup value now rather than later. They probably wouldn’t have been able to get more than the Celtics could hypothetically offer now if they wait. Still, they ended up waiting.
Why it didn’t get done
In Boston’s case, we’ve been down this road before. It took a lot to get the Celtics to maybe put one Nets pick on the table. If the Pacers wanted more — and they definitely should have, as ESPN’s Zach Lowe notes — it’s hard for Boston to justify that price. The Celtics could just use both Nets picks and have an equally good shot at landing a player of George’s caliber in the draft.
For the Pacers, there was no reason to rush this move. George is one of the league’s best players, and while the Lakers exist as a boogeyman in free agency in 2018, George has expressed his desire to win with the Pacers if possible. Indiana is currently in playoff position and had been hunting for upgrades to help them move up in the standings, though that effort failed.
The Pacers can also offer George a five-year designated player extension worth more than $219 million should George make one of the three All-NBA teams in the next two years. That’s much more than any other team can offer him.
This feels more like setting the stage for the summer once both teams know how valuable that 2017 draft pick ends up being.