Paul George Trade: Hold your horses on the reactions

Paul George will be looking on from a far. How will the Pacers look without him.
Paul George will be looking on from a far. How will the Pacers look without him. /

The Pacers have finally entered a rebuild by trading Paul George, but the reaction to the trade has been far from ecstatic.

The reaction from the pressother GM’s and, well, most everyone has not been flattering of Kevin Pritchard’s and the Indiana Pacers’ 10th-hour trade of Paul George.

Why the negative press?

Everyone was expecting the Indiana Pacers to tank, and when you tank, conventional wisdom is that you take back expiring contracts, a role player and draft picks for your star. The George/Oladipo trade was definitely not a tanking trade. So, when people are expecting a tanking trade and don’t get a tanking trade, they are understandably surprised.

best of buds
Paul George will soon be partnering with his old foe, Russell Westbrook. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Here’s the thing, the conventional wisdom is stupid.

2017 is not the time to tank, not when half of the freakin’ Eastern Conference (Chicago, Atlanta, Brooklyn, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia and Indiana) are in various states of rebuild. Is Indiana somehow going to out-tank the perpetually tanking Nets? Nope.

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On top of that, of the remaining seven teams: Charlotte and Detroit are thoroughly average, Milwaukee’s a unicorn, Cleveland and Washington are both good but their rosters are bloated in luxury tax-land, Boston’s can improve but might be too stingy for their own good and what Miami’s doing is anybody’s guess.

The smart move is to short the conference landscape, don’t do the conventional tank, but draft well and get younger on the fly, which is what Indiana just did in the George-Oladipo trade. The Pacers got two young players that are both ready to play now, and will be better two years from now.

That’s not the conventional approach, but why would the Pacers want to go that route anyway? Let’s trade Paul George for some team’s sloppy seconds and a hope and a prayer, which is all that expiring contracts and draft picks are.

The only draft pick that’s worth trading is a No. 1, it’s the only way to control the draft, and even then some teams (read, Cleveland) find a way to screw it up.

Anthony Bennett
If you didn’t click on the link -you should- but this is the legend I was referencing. /

Now, I’m not saying that there is never a time to tank. Houston tanked so blatantly successfully in 1983 (Ralph Sampson) and 1984 (Hakeem Olajuwon) that the NBA instituted the draft lottery.

My favorite tanking story was from the 1997 season. Boston pulled out all the stops to suck as badly as possible. Their most common starting lineup (two rookies, Antoine Walker and Brett Szabo, along with Buzz Lightyear, Tweedle-dee and Rick Fox) won two of the 22 games they started together. They benched any decent player that showed a hint of an injury and won 15 whole games.

But they were outdone!

The greatest coach maybe ever
“Outdone by Meeeeee!” – Gregg Popovich /

Out of the depths of the heart of Texas, the San Antonio Spurs spied an opportunity. Sure they had just won 59 games the season before, but David Robinson was feeling a little gimpy.

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Just take your time getting back David. No, no, don’t rush it! We want you to come back when you’re feeling 200 percent.

It was kind of like the biblical scene of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. They both wanted to prove their God was the best. The Prophets (the Celtics) ranted and raving pleading for Tim Duncan. Elijah (the Spurs) said, “hey David Stern could you ignore those morons and do us a solid?” David Stern shrugged and said, “okay,” then gave San Antonio Duncan. The Celtics were left asking, “Man, did this dude just did this?”

Point being, there are times when tanking works. The Spurs tanked, got Duncan, then won five championships and 71 percent of their games over his career. But more often, you don’t win the lottery, you’re not the Spurs and instead, you are Sacramento.

Actually, while we’re at it, the theory of building through the draft is mostly a myth. Yes, you need to do it some, like the great Pacers teams of the 90’s and 00’s drafting Reggie Miller, Rik Smits, the Davis boys, Austin Croshere and Al Harrington.

However, they got Mark Jackson, Detlef Schrempf, Derrick McKey, Jalen Rose, Chris Mullin, Jermaine O’Neal and Ron Artest (he’s a punchline now, but remember he was the defensive player of the year, an All-Star and Indy’s second best player on the 61-win 2004 team) through trades. As great as Reggie and Rik were, those six conference finals appearances don’t happen without the trades for Jackson, McKey and O’Neal.

Reggie Miller (a Pacers draft pick) teamed with two Pacers (Sam Perkins, 14, and Jalen Rose) to reach the 2000 NBA Finals /

Look at Golden State, sure they drafted Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, but there are no titles without Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Andrew Bogut and of course Kevin Durant.

Next: Darren Collison has signed a two-year deal

There’s more than one way to build a champion. The Pacers have picked the route that will retool with the least amount of years spent in desolation. Isn’t that a good thing?