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Lakers, Pacers reportedly begin Paul George trade discussions

Talks are happening between the two teams.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Indiana Pacers - Game Four Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers and Indiana Pacers have engaged in Paul George trade discussions, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne. The two teams could get a deal done ahead of Thursday’s NBA draft.

The Lakers are not willing to part with the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft, according to Stein, who also reported there is “zero chance” the team parts with last year’s No. 2 pick, Brandon Ingram, either. That is the sticking point in negotiations: The Pacers covet the No. 2 pick just as much as the Lakers.

Los Angeles, however, has had leverage ever since George made it clear he intended to sign with the Lakers when his free agency hits in the summer of 2018.

George told the Pacers he had no intention on re-signing in Indiana when he opts out of his current contract and becomes a free agent next summer. Instead, he gave the franchise an opportunity to plan for a future without his All-Star talent on the wing.

George’s preferred destination has been the Lakers all along. The two-way forward is from Palmdale, Calif., just outside of Los Angeles, and grew up a fan of Magic Johnson, who now runs the franchise as president of basketball operations.

The Clippers, Rockets, Wizards, and Cavaliers are other teams that reached out to the Pacers about trading for George, according to Stein.

The Pacers wanted to keep George, but couldn’t put the necessary talent around him to compete at a high level. Indiana inquired about Jahlil Okafor and Brook Lopez at the trade deadline but ultimately couldn’t get a deal done. They then flipped to fielding offers on George, but Larry Bird’s asking price was too high for the Celtics.

George made his fourth All-Star appearance in five seasons with the Pacers this year, averaging 23.7 points and 6.6 rebounds to lead Indiana to the East’s seventh seed. He failed to make an All-NBA team this season, however, dashing his chance to sign a five-year, $200-plus million “supermax” contract extension.

Instead, the Pacers can only offer him five years at $177 million while other teams can offer four years at around $130 million. Without the financial incentive to stay in Indiana, George is primed to make his next move.

The Lakers could wait to sign him when his free agency strikes next July, but they run the risk of another team trading for and potentially locking in the All-Star forward for the foreseeable future.