But it’s hard to find anyone who believes Indiana is genuinely looking to trade George before the upcoming trade deadline.
David Aldridge of NBA.com:
If the Pacers are serious about trading George, they better convince other teams quickly. That’s the only way to draw out the best offers.
But it makes sense Indiana is only in the exploratory stage.
The Pacers — and only the Pacers — could offer George a designated-veteran-player contract extension (projected to be worth about $209 million over five years) this offseason if he makes an All-NBA team.
That’s probably a longshot. Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James are locks for three of the six forward spots. Anthony Davis, Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green and Giannis Antetokounmpo should also rank ahead of George. Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap, Kevin Love are firmly in the mix, too. That’s a lot of ground to make up and other contenders to fend off.
But it’s likely worth it for the Pacers to keep George past the deadline and let him try. The upside is so high.
If George doesn’t make an All-NBA team, Indiana could always trade him at any point before the next trade deadline. He could also qualify as a designated veteran player by making a 2017-18 All-NBA team and re-signing as a free agent in 2018, but by then, it’d be too late for the Pacers to trade him if they don’t have the major financial advantage.
At some point, Indiana could ask George to pledge to stay for his max, whatever that winds up being. That wouldn’t be binding, but his response could be telling.
For now, if I were the Pacers, I’d hope he makes All-NBA this year and dare him to reject the designated-veteran-player extension. If he qualifies and turns that down, that would absolutely be telling.
But I’d also be exploring the trade market now, hoping for an offer that knocks my socks off but more realistically gaining understanding for when dealing George becomes more logical.