Paul George is reportedly out for the season after his horrific leg injury.
Sometimes, those evaluations are inspired by public-relations – rather than medical – reasons. (See Serge Ibaka.)
The Pacers surely don’t want people repeatedly asking when George will return. Better to just put the matter behind them, for a season at least, by declaring him out now. If he comes back earlier, all the better, and a year of incessant questions will be avoided in the meantime.
But now Indiana will put that diagnosis before an impartial physician.
The Indiana Pacers are expected to apply to the NBA for a disabled player exception in the wake of forward Paul George’s gruesome broken leg, according to a league source.
The Pacers must convince an NBA-selected doctor George is “substantially more likely than not” to be out through June 15 to get the disabled-player exception (DPE). It would allow the Pacers to sign a player to a one-year contract worth up to $5,305,000, or they could trade for or claim off waivers a player who makes up to $5,405,000 and is on the final year of his contract.
There’s really no harm in applying. If the request is denied or Indiana gets, but doesn’t use, the DPE, there’s no consequence.
And it’s certainly possible the Pacers wouldn’t use it, especially not in full.
For one, they also have 15 players under contract, the regular-season limit. But Donald Sloan’s contract is fully unguaranteed, and Shayne Whittington’s is just $25,000 guaranteed. It wouldn’t be difficult to clear a roster spot.
The luxury tax presents a much larger problem.
Indiana is just $1,622,151 below the tax line. That room would almost assuredly increase if the Pacers take the necessary step of clearing a roster spot to make room for another player – to $2,570,314 if they waive Sloan for example. But even with the DPE, George would continue to count against the cap. Maybe Indiana also waives Whittington and/or Luis Scola, another player with a partially guaranteed contract, but that’s a lot of trimming.
And for what?
The best and best-fitting free agent on the market, Shawn Marion, is leaning toward signing with the Cavaliers. No other unrestricted free agents makes sense above the minimum with the exception of Ray Allen, but I sure don’t see him in Indiana.
The trade market could reveal more possibilities – Marco Belinelli (Spurs), Dorell Wright (Trail Blazers) and Luc Mbah A Moute (Timberwolves) to name a few ideas – a trade partner’s desired return and the tax-avoiding gymnastics necessary to facilitate a deal are probably too much for the Pacers.
Indiana would be wise to seek the DPE in case it proves useful. Even if the Pacers get it, George could return earlier than expected, and the player they acquired with the DPE would remain eligible.
But the most significant outcome of the application very well could be the public learning what a neutral doctor really thinks of George at this point. If that doesn’t seem very significant, that’s because it’s not (unless the request is denied).