The Indiana Pacers nearly dealt All-Star forward Paul George at the Feb. 23 trade deadline with the most lucrative trade offer coming from the Boston Celtics. But according to Liberty Ballers’ Kyle Neubeck, the Pacers also fielded (and turned down) a huge offer from the Philadelphia 76ers, who were willing to take on George without assurances he’d sign long-term.
The Sixers could have burned much of what they had built by offering this trade.
According to Neubeck, the Sixers were offering one of Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel, versatile forward Robert Covington, and at least two of their first-round picks for George. To ship its star forward to Boston, Indiana wanted the swap rights to the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick in the upcoming draft, as well as three out of the four young Celtics perimeter defenders (Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Avery Bradley), according to DYST’s Mike Ortiz.
Philadelphia wanted to keep its own picks and move the Sacramento Kings’ 2018 first-rounder (top-10 protected) and the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2017 first-rounder (top-three protected). 76ers management felt it could sell George on playing alongside their core group of young players, including Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, according to Neubeck, and was not deterred by his looming 2018 unrestricted free agency linked to his hometown Los Angeles Lakers team.
Indiana should have strongly considered this offer
The only thing worse than moving a star player out of fear of his free agency is getting pennies on the dollar in return. (I’m looking at you, Vlade Divac.) The longer the Pacers wait on moving George, the higher the likelihood of that happening
If Indiana had its pick of the two Philly big men, Okafor would have made the most sense given Myles Turner’s standing as defensive anchor. He would have given the team a boost off the bench, but also would have crowded an already-deep frontcourt. The Pacers could have also opted to flip him to another team for other assets.
Covington is shooting a career-worst 34 percent from downtown, but is still regarded as a dead-eye shooter. He’s also a solid rebounder at the small forward position (6.5 boards per game) and is a versatile defender with the ability to check multiple positions (1.9 steals, 1.0 blocks per game).
If the Lakers’ selection lands in the top three this year, they must convey an unprotected pick in 2018. The Sixers also have swap rights to the Kings’ first-rounder this year, but aren’t currently projected to receive that pick.
Indiana could have swapped picks with Sacramento into the top 10 and had Los Angeles’ first-rounder next year, along with their own. That’s aside from landing Okafor and Covington.
Philadelphia dodged a bullet on this one
There’s no way Paul George is re-signing to stay in Philadelphia long-term — not with an injury-riddled Joel Embiid, not with an unproven Ben Simmons who can’t shoot a three-pointer, and not without other reliable veterans on the roster.
The 76ers were willing to take a gamble and mortgage their future on a one-year rental. They got lucky Pacers president Larry Bird got cold feet at the altar.
Now, Philly can continue chugging on along the rebuilding path they’ve already set. History shows there are no quick fixes in a long-term rebuild (hey, Knicks), and the 76ers have started down the right path.
They just need to do what they’ve done all along and trust the process.