Paul George will spend the 2017-2018 NBA season as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. At the end of the season, George will be a free agent and all indications point to him then signing a deal with his hometown Los Angeles Lakers. It’s as close to a guaranteed outcome as there is in sports. At least it was until you hear what Paul George – and not some anonymous source, unauthorized to speak publicly – has to say about it. Via Sports Illustrated:
“For me, it’s all about winning. I want to be in a good system, a good team. I want a shot to win it. I’m not a stats guy. I’m playing this game to win and build a legacy of winning. I’ve yet to do that. I’m searching for it. If we get a killer season in Oklahoma, we make the conference finals or upset the Warriors or do something crazy, I’d be dumb to want to leave that.”
Suddenly, the Boston Celtics refusal to part with precious assets to get George sounds awful dumb. If Paul George wants to play in a Conference Finals, the reigning #1 seed might have been a good fit for him. If it’s all about winning, joining a team that won 53 games last season might be something he would enjoy.
Suddenly, the Lakers decision to wait for George to come in a year rather than trade for him when he was available seems like more of a gamble. How many more games will the Thunder win than the Lakers this season? The Thunder won 21 more games than the Lakers last season. The Lakers added Lonzo Ball. The Thunder added Paul George.
More from SI:
“I’m in OKC, so hopefully me and Russ do a good enough job and make it to the conference finals and love the situation, why not recruit someone to come build it with us? I’m open in this whole process.”
If Paul George is truly all about winning then it is actually highly unlikely he signs with the Lakers in 2018. Even if the Lakers make a tremendous leap this season and fight for the 8-seed, they’re still a team full of guys who are years away from competing for a title.
Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson missed the playoffs for a couple years and then had two early exits. LeBron James made the Finals in his 4th season and then didn’t get back until his 8th. Michael Jordan didn’t do it until his 7th. These things take time and unless LeBron really does join George in L.A. next summer, there’s nothing close to a guarantee that the Lakers could provide George with a deep playoff run with nothing but a bunch of kids who can barely buy beer.
Sure, there’s the possibility that George is just saying these things to win over the fans of Oklahoma City. Maybe he wants a peaceful season in the locker room without everyone looking ahead to what might happen after the season. That would be the smart thing to do. But what if he’s not just being smart, but he’s also being truthful? What if winning is the most important thing. Los Angeles might be the right fit way down the road, but for the next couple years he’ll probably be better off in Oklahoma City. Stranger things have happened.