The situation in Oklahoma City is starting to become a bit concerning after the first quarter of the 2017-18 NBA season. The OKC Thunder were expected to be among the top-tier teams in the league this season, but an underwhelming start has put the talented squad with a below .500 record at 11-12.
Although it’s too early to consider the Thunder as the latest case of a Super-Team bust, many NBA insiders are already questioning if the team is capable of toppling the Golden State Warriors or even going deep in the brutal Western Conference Playoffs.
This season’s campaign will be crucial for OKC’s future, with Paul George and Carmelo Anthony’s free agency looming in the background.
Veteran NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN doubts Thunder owner Clay Bennett would shell out more money to cover the luxury tax bills as a price for keeping three max-level players (Russell Westbrook, George, and Anthony) on the same team.
PG13 trade talks still alive
The likelihood of another major move in OKC between now and the trade deadline in February is starting to become a realistic proposition. George, who can become an unrestricted free agent next season by exercising an early termination clause on the final year of his deal, happens to be the Thunder’s most viable trade asset.
According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, there’s still a chance for George to be moved again this season, especially if the Thunder sports a losing record by February. The Thunder cannot afford to let George walk away in free agency next year after giving away Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, who are both playing really well with the Indiana Pacers.
George’s departure could also make the decision easier for Anthony to leave as well. Although Melo has a lot to lose financially ($27 million for the 2018-19 season) compared to George ($20 million) if he opts out of his deal, the opportunity of playing for a team with a better shot at the title would be too tempting for the All-Star to turn down.
Trade route for George
Windhorst advises the Cleveland Cavaliers to pay close attention to George’s situation in Oklahoma City. The Cavaliers were one of the frontrunners for George before the Pacers decided to ship the All-Star wingman to the Thunder a day before the start of free agency. Cleveland has multiple veterans to use as potential trade bait along with the highly coveted Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.
Then, there’s also the possibility that the Lakers could make a move for George now. Lakers executives Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have been preparing for moves that would clear enough cap space for two max-level free agents.
Packaging Julius Randle ($5 million and a restricted free agent next summer) and Jordan Clarkson ($12MM per season) for George allows Los Angeles to get their top free agency target before he hits the market and create enough space to pursue another bona fide All-Star (hey, LeBron James and DeMarcus Cousins).
It’s a risky move since George has the ability to opt out and ask for more money, but many feel Magic Johnson can convince the All-Star to exercise his player’s option and play through the final year of his deal. #NBA Trade Rumors #Cavs Rumors #Paul George trade rumors