Is it the Perfect Time to Trade Paul George?

I know very well that this column might not make me the most popular person in Pacer Nation, but I feel the need to at least broach the subject. “Potential” is a great word in the NBA. Sometimes it holds more weight than the word “results.” This season one might argue that young Paul George showed us considerably more potential than he did results.

I do consider it important to note that I am not dismissing the potential of Paul George nor   do I wish him anything but success on the Pacers or any other franchise because for a 22-year old NBA player with the world in front of him, he certainly seems to have a good head on his shoulders.

But the word “potential” has shielded him from criticism on a fairly consistent basis. It’s fair to say that his scoring has not been consistent, his offensive assertiveness has been lackluster at times and his offensive game plan does not always compliment his natural athleticism, however, I will admit his defensive ability is quite valuable.

Basically what I am getting at is the concept of “selling high.” Paul George certainly has potential that may lead many of us to believe that he will improve in leaps and bounds. However, he has not shown us enough to be able to say vast improvement is lock by any means. The whole league would agree that “there might be something about this Paul George kid.” Which means that if Paul George does not make a huge improvement this season then his stock will probably never be higher than it is right now.

As I was taking a look at Tim Donahue’s excellent post about the Pacer’s offseason possibilities (really a must read) I talked myself into everything Donahue presented. I can see the logic behind it all. But I got to thinking about “what if these things just don’t happen.” Perhaps just due to bad luck. Donahue points out that Eric Gordan may demand a max contract, which would be a huge risk. Irsan Elyasova seems like a great fit, but another team might bid high for him forcing the Pacers to over pay. And I absolutely love the thought of Steve Nash on the Indiana Pacers, but financial reasoning aside it just might not happen because, you know, what franchise wouldn’t absolutely love the idea of Steve Nash on their team? Who knows what exactly Steve wants.

And perhaps that leaves the Pacers with re-signing Hibbert (and probably Hill) and attempting to retain the same basic core. In that situation their best chance of becoming a better team would lie in the player who is the most likely candidate for strong improvement: Paul George (perhaps along with Hibbert). Which allows you to see how much stake is truly put into Paul George. And at that point one might may want to look at one of their best assets as just that: an asset.

So I think it is fair to say that Paul George (at a very affordable price) could bring in significant talent to the Pacers who already have significant talent surrounding him. So I have provided a few examples of possible (and financially plausible) trades that are just meant to show the kind of potential that might be brought in if the Pacers were to move George. Obviously I have no idea if both sides of these trades would agree to the terms nor do I have the ability to know if they would truly make the Pacers better.

Paul George to the Philadelphia 76ers for Thaddeus Young

This would be a conservative trade. This would be the type of trade that the Pacers would make if they did have an inclination that Paul George’s ceiling is a little bit lower than most people think. In his fifth year in the league, Young is a little bit more likely to be getting close to the player that he is going to be in the future.

The stats between Young and George are quite similar. In fact, George’s playoff scoring and rebounding statistics were better than Young’s. But Young also came off of the bench and scored more efficiently and took higher percentage shots (leading to a higher field goal percentage). Young is also a very versatile player who has shot 50% over his career and can slide back and forth from small forward to power forward while playing good defense at either position. He would not be a big name, but he would likely fit seamlessly into the Pacers rotation as a player who does not have to start nor does he take many shots away from teammates.

Paul George to the Denver Nuggets for Kenneth Faried and Jordan Hamilton

Perhaps this trade makes less sense because you would be trading potential for different potential. But part of me believes that the potential that Faried has to offer is significantly harder to find. The guy wasn’t supposed to be a factor in his rookie season, but he ended up playing significant minutes in playoff wins. He could very well be Hansbrough 2.0. He has a relentless motor, incredible strength and he’s got enough offensive skills to be more than just an energy guy. Plus his nickname is the Manimal and he dunks the ball really hard.

Jordan Hamilton was also just a rookie last season and he received very limited minutes. But his size and position allow him the potential to possibly be as good as Paul George is right now sometime down the road. He did not get much playing time for a deep Nuggets squad, but he averaged nearly 20 points per game as a sophomore at Texas.

This trade would bring in two second year players at a very cheap price. One of which would make an immediate impact on the floor. This trade would also be made with the idea that Paul George may very well demand a lot of money down the line if he does make a fair amount of improvement. Being able to acquire young quality players before then is a possible strategy.

Paul George to the Houston Rockets for Kyle Lowry 

Kyle Lowry is coming off of a breakout season. More recently, he is coming off of a trade demand-in-the-making. Apparently he does not believe that he can play under coach, Kevin Mchale next season. While I do not know enough to take sides in their dispute, I will admit that I am completely on the Kyle Lowry bandwagon as far as his future as a player in the NBA.

I do not mean to make a grand overstatement when I say that the difference between “potential” and “results” is the difference between Paul George and Kyle Lowry. All I mean is that I think that Lowry had a significantly bigger stake in winning games for the Houston Rockets than George did for the Pacers. Lowry is a triple-double threat who scores, rebounds, passes, plays excellent off-ball and on-ball defense and makes his teammates play at a high level.

Of course Lowry is a point guard which would mean that more changes would have to come. Either the Pacers would have to choose not to resign George Hill or to trade Darren Collison. I think both of these players have bright futures in this league; I just think that Lowry is a better player than both. With the absence of George the Pacers would have a very small back court, which means they would have to address this with some sort of low-key signing or look towards the draft for a bigger guard.

Paul George’s Future

It is probably very unlikely that any of these exact trades happen and if the Pacers choose to keep Paul George then they likely have a lot to look forward to with his presence. In fact, you wouldn’t hear me complain. But I do feel that the Indiana front office is in a position where they have to consider the idea.

In our last Post-Game Grades of the season Tim Donahue gave George a C+. Donahue wrote, “No way around it, Paul George spent most of the series and most of this game as a disaster offensively, and we could spend days discussing his travails running the fast break. But, he’s young, and he’s a good kid. Bizarrely, if you want encouragement, watch him guarding Wade from tonight’s game. It will make you feel better about Paul, and also make you appreciate just how ungodly unstoppable Wade was.”

Very well said. It leaves Indiana with a little bit of a dilemma: Do you wait for potential or do you milk that word for everything it’s worth?


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