Tha Sports Junkies 101

The Lakers Shouldn’t Trade for Paul George

Los Angeles Lakers - Paul George Mark Runyon/ via Flickr


It’s been a difficult journey rooting for the Lakers these past few years. The team went from being in the finals three years in a row to a combined 9-17 record in the playoffs the next three years. The four seasons to follow (including this one) have netted zero playoff appearances.

Tanking, asset collecting, and player development have helped entertain fans for the past four years, but fans have had enough.

LA collected the assets from tanking. The youth is here. The young Laker players will continue to develop, but Laker fans want to see them playing meaningful games.

After years of swinging and missing during the offseason, adding a star player to the team this year via trade or a free agent signing would be a big step in turning the franchise back into the perennial contender we know this franchise as.

After it becoming known league wide that Paul George is “hell bent” on making his way to the Lakers if he can’t compete for a title in Indiana, many conversations have turned to LA trading some of their young pieces for George. This might not be the smartest move.


The Lakers’ Situation

If the Lakers want George they have two choices: Trade for him or wait for him to become a free agent. They can trade for him and have him as early as next season. It’s almost certain he will decline his player option for ’18-’19, so if LA opts to wait until he’s a free agent to sign him it’ll only take waiting through next season.

Trading for Paul George

This detail can’t be overstated: If the Lakers trade for PG-13 this offseason, they will only have him under contract for next year. After that he’s a free agent. If he leaves to sign elsewhere LA just gave away valuable assets for one season of an all-star.

If the goal is to have George long-term, the only difference in that pursuit between trading for him and waiting to sign him is that if they trade for him, they’ll lose key assets to do so.

Cons of Trading for George

Trading for George will costs assets. Those assets are likely some combination of two fo Brandon Ingram/D’Angelo Russell/2017 Top 3 Pick. If the Lakers don’t keep their 1st round pick this draft this potential trade gets rough for them. Acquiring George to pair with Clarkson, Randle, Zubac, and Nance is not an ideal situation.

If Indiana is willing to sell him, and Boston wants George, they can outbid LA. Boston is incentivized to try to win now with Isaiah Thomas only having 2 years left on his contract and Horford aging. If Boston makes any bid to acquire George but somehow the Lakers win that bidding war, it won’t be for cheap. Thinking based on the thought that Indy will try to move George for cheap before he leaves with no return is wrong. It ignores the fact that there are 28 other teams in the league. Any LA low-ball offers will be beat out by another team. Have no doubt about this, it will cost LA to acquire PG. 

Pros of Trading for George

If the Lakers do trade for PG-13, he’ll have a year of experience on the team to maybe understand “what it means to be a Laker” and decide he wants to be on the team long-term. The thinking is that George would embrace the role of being a superstar in a big market with a rich basketball history and would want to stay in LA, which is also his home before Indianapolis. The culture that Lakers coach Luke Walton is building inside the franchise is one that would also allow George to have fun and enjoy playing basketball perhaps more than he has in the past. Whatever young pieces LA doesn’t trade to get George are realizing their potential and becoming efficient and key contributors.

This scenario sounds decent in theory, but it’s unlikely that a PG-13 led Laker team, without the assets needed to acquire him, makes it any deeper into the playoffs than one round. It’s likely that George comes to LA and plays a season under an inexperienced coach who’s still figuring his job out, on a somewhat decimated roster that lost key young players in order for him to get there, and the team is never better than mediocre.

“But mediocre would be better than what we’re seeing now,” you might say. That’d be true, but would it be enough to keep George in LA after next season once he’s a free agent? That’s the real question.

Where Does a Trade Leave the Lakers?

After next year, LA is left with a superstar that’s a free agent and is in a situation where he is looking where he wants to play long-term. Teams, good and bad, will line up to sign him. 

In regards to Paul George, every move the Lakers make should be working toward winning this free agent signing next offseason.

What puts the Lakers in a better place? An LA roster that’s weaker than it is now from spending to acquire him? If his priority is to win, this roster will easily be topped by several other teams.

More likely to succeed would be an LA roster better than it is now because it kept its players and those assets have appreciated in value.

If the real goal is to sign George long-term, does a Laker roster without two of Ingram/Russell/2017 Top 3 pick gives the Lakers a better chance to keep PG? I doubt it.

It’s clear that George values having ties in the area he signs with next. Those places are Indy or LA. The Lakers trading blossoming young talent to Indy may only strengthen the case for George to return to the Pacers. That would sting.

If George wanted to win a title soon, he could go many places that aren’t LA. That’s not why he’d pick the Lakers. Struggling next season on an LA squad doesn’t do much to prove to George that LA is that team.

The Advantage of Waiting

If George really is “hell bent” on coming to LA, that desire will still exist at the end of next season. Based on that, keeping talent on the roster rather than risking it makes sense too. I also doubt a year of struggle in LA will help their case during free agency.

If the Pacers were out of the picture, I’d be more on board with trading for George. Still against it, but more understanding of the logic. With Indy in contention for George the home appeal doesn’t work as well. George has lived in Indy for the past 7 years. It’s his home now. His childhood and college home having been close to LA still means something. However, it’ means less vs Indy than it would vs Boston.

Without that advantage, it comes down to who the better team is. Does taking the two teams as they are now but throwing D’Angelo Russell and/or Brandon Ingram on Indiana help LA? Probably not.

Remember, it was said he’s hell bent on going to LA IF the Pacers can’t contend. If the Lakers make a trade that gives Indy the pieces to be much more of a contender than LA, the Pacers are the clear favorite.

The Laker exceptionalism that some fans believe exists clearly hasn’t attracted big name players in the recent past. What will attract A or B-list superstars is a team ready to compete for a title. Keeping the young players that are improving every day helps that cause.

“But What If Boston Trades for Him?”

This shouldn’t matter. No matter what team George is on, he’s still a free agent at the end of next year. After next season, Boston will be a better winning option for George if they trade for him or not.

There’s one difference between LA or Boston trading for George. One team will be weakening their roster for 2018 free agency. Oh, and they’ll have a season to try to win his heart.

These scenarios have an equal likelihood in my mind:

  • The Lakers trade for George and he leaves for Boston or another contender in free agency
  • Boston or another contender trades for George and re-signs with that team

At the end of the day, I’d rather the Lakers wait to go after Paul George. They can better prepare themselves for 2018 free agency and avoid gut their stable of young players. I’ll pass on the one season of making no noise in the playoffs.

“What if LA Signs Another Superstar This Offseason?”

If the Lakers trade for George, will they have cap space to sign another big-time player? It would certainly help them keep George in free agency.

Any George trade will also likely involve taking on Monta Ellis’ contract. If LA trades Ingram/Russell and their potential 2017 top 3 pick (after they draft that player) for George and Monta Ellis, they’ll have $5.03 million left in cap room, nowhere near enough to sign a great player. If they stretch Mozgov’s contract and do the same trade, they have $13.41 million. That’s more, but not enough to sign a star. Even somehow moving Randle, Nance, and Zubac leaves LA with only $19.94 million, still not enough.

If LA trades the top 3 pick they can’t also trade the Houston pick, so they can’t dangle that with Clarkson or Deng’s contracts to another team to clear space. It’ll likely take trading Clarkson with Nance/Zubac to another team and trading Ingram and the top 3 pick to make enough room. That’d give LA ~$26.23 million in space. It’d also result in this sort of rotation:


PG: Russell/Ellis

SG: 2017 FA, Houston Pick

SF: George/Brewer

PF: Randle/Deng

C: Zubac/Mozgov


So it’s possible, but it’ll be difficult and very expensive in terms of assets. If LA doesn’t keep their pick this year this situation becomes nearly impossible. It’d then also take Russell to get George. If that becomes the case, I’d rather not make those trades.

I’d prefer Ingram, 2017 Top 3 Pick/Russell, Clarkson, and Nance over a year of George, Monta Ellis’ contract, and a chance to sign another free agent. At that point it makes more sense to just wait a year.



If George really wants to come to LA, he will sign with LA at the end of next season. If he doesn’t at that point, then he wouldn’t have re-signed with the team if the Lakers traded for him.

We’ll know then that either:

  1. LA made the right decision. And they’ll have a better roster than if they’d traded for him and he (maybe) re-signed, or
  2. That he wouldn’t have come back anyway and the Lakers just saved themselves from trading away key talent.

It’s a win-win for LA. If LA doesn’t get George, they’re not left in a wasteland of a situation. They’ll still have a plethora of young players entering their primes and cap space. Those are two components that are essential for LA to attract and sign another superstar.