The Indiana Pacers find themselves in a very tough position, as Paul George free-agency looms large. With one year left in George’s current deal, Indiana must decide whether to trade their main gunner or ride on him all the way. Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders expected the PG-13 lottery to be a bidding war among his top suitors which happened to be lottery-bound teams: the Celtics, the L.A Lakers and the Philadelphia 76ers.

Why the Celtics are the best trade partners?

It’s no secret George covets the opportunity to play for his home team in Los Angeles, but the Celtics clearly have an edge over the other two teams due to its sheer number of tradable assets. The Sixers emerge as another potential destination, yet George’s unwillingness to play for a non-contender ball club makes it harder for Jerry and Bryan Colangelo to explore that deal.

Boston’s vast collection of draft picks and young players would easily entice the Pacers’ front-office to trade George. The Celtics’ shot at George further increased when they won the first pick of the 2017 NBA Draft.

Should Boston reopen trade talks for George, it is expected that Indiana will ask for the top-pick along with other promising young pieces such as Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Jae Crowder. Of these three players, Crowder has the highest trade value because of his ability to defend the perimeter and knock down 3-point shots. According to Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders, several teams inquired for the availability of Crowder at the trade deadline but Danny Ainge easily turned down all offers.

Pacers’ rebuild need Crowder

It’s always a huge gamble anytime a team trades its franchise player for its future. However, the Pacers can surely lessen the chances of the deal becoming a major flop by asking for the right trade package. Crowder’s statistical line isn’t eye popping (13.9 ppg and 5.8 rpg), but he can surely fill in the void to be left by George, as far as perimeter defense and floor-spacing are concerned.

The former Marquette standout was shooting nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc during the 2017/18 regular-season, and that makes him a great compliment to Miles Turner’s inside game.

As for the top pick, the Pacers can use it for their point guard of the future, whether it is Washington’s Markelle Fultz or UCLA’s Lonzo Ball.

With Jeff Teague expected to command a $20MM per year deal in free-agency, drafting a top point guard prospect would allow the Pacers to spend some of its cap money for other areas that need major upgrade such as the two-guard and power forward positions. As long as the Pacers can get Crowder and that top pick, this team will just be fine. In fact, it won’t be surprising if they reach the postseason in 2 or 3 years, considering how shallow the competition in the Eastern Conference.