Sorry Lakers fans.
Paul George may well come home to Los Angeles next summer — most people around the league see that still the most likely option — but him staying in Oklahoma City seems a growing possibility. A few things have to happen here — George has to decide he wants to stay, and the Thunder ownership has to agree to the massive tax hit they are about to take on to keep both of them (especially if Carmelo Anthony opts into nearly $28 million next season) — but it is possible.
As for George wanting to stay, David Aldridge of TNT/NBA.com is the latest to report that George is liking what he sees in Oklahoma City so far.
The source says George has been impressed by the culture of the Thunder and how meticulous general manager Sam Presti and the organization are in building the roster and the franchise. George was impressed that the front office “had the (guts),” in the source’s words, to put everything on the line in getting him, and followed it up by getting Anthony without giving up any of the team’s core group. (The Thunder showed who it thought was more important to the team by re-signing defensive hound/offensive liability Andre Roberson for $30 million over three years, while including the offensively potent but defensively sieve-like Enes Kanter in the Anthony trade.)
There is a long season ahead, we will see how George and Russell Westbrook pair, and where Carmelo Anthony fits into the equation. If they mesh — and if those three are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to win, giving up something in terms of their numbers and games — and this season is successful (reaching the Conference Finals, for example) George may stay.
Then the question is will ownership take on a tax bill that could push $150 million, on top of their salary commitments. All the reports from ownership’s side said yes, they are committed to taking on that tax bill, but as this is the team that moved on from James Harden at least in part because of luxury tax concerns, there is some skepticism. To ride this wave out would be taking a financial hit for five or six seasons, then the team will need to start rebuilding (most likely).
There are a lot of questions to be answered, but the idea of George staying with the Thunder long-term is not crazy.