Paul George has a decision to make in less than a week. Stay in Oklahoma City and make more money. Or move back home to Los Angeles. If he moves back home to Los Angeles, he will possibly or probably have LeBron James as a teammate. He will be surrounded with young talent so when he and LBJ go to the bench they won’t have to worry about the ship sinking, a common occurrence in OKC. LeBron will be the oldest player on the Lakers roster but everyone else is under 30, Paul George included.
Basketball wise, if he stays in OKC Paul George will have to wait at least another year for anything good to happen in the playoffs. Carmelo Anthony’s contract, Steven Adam’s contract (he will make a ridiculous $24 million), Russell Westbrook’s contract and the Paul George contract will prevent the Thunder from being anything more than what they were this past year. They will win between 44-48 games, finish as a 5th or 6th seed and lose in the first round because the Collective Bargaining Agreement has helped the Thunder and it will now ruin the Thunder.
In the 2011 lockout, the owners wanted to prevent a situation that LeBron James forced on them. They needed to legislate via the CBA player non-movement. They didn’t want players to team up and create a tsunami where they organize their free agency as a collective door opening and decide where they go en masse. That cut into the owners power, profit and bottom line. So, they worked out a system where if you are over the salary cap as a team you cannot sign free agents other than your own player to a competitive salary. You have to scrape the bottom of the barrel and then face the consequences. Top heavy teams lose in the playoffs. You need quality players who achieve at a 18 minute a night clip. But role players want to get paid too.
Furthermore, the owners agreed that if teams are over the salary cap consistently they would be punished by way of a progressive tax that is horrifically absurd. It would make owners think twice about tossing money around.
These new stipulations were going to control the market and help the small market teams compete. The OKC and Cavs were ecstatic. The Lakers and Knicks were solemn.
But often you don’t know what you think you know. The loophole in the we are going to keep teams from stockpiling top-10 players was what if players willingly take less money? What then?
When James, Wade and Bosh got together in Miami, only Bosh took the max salary. LeBron and Wade took less. If Kawhi can’t mend fences in San Antonio and is shipped out, he will take less during his free agency year in 2019. Kevin Durant took less than the max when he signed with Golden State.
And that is the country Paul George is in right now. It is a dilemma he has that frankly many would like to have. Take the money and stay in OKC which isn’t his preferred living spot. Or take less money and go home. It’s the math that NBA owners specifically counted on working in their favor because their overall opinion is that NBA players are greedy and money trumps everything.
So if George is following the owners script, he signs with OKC. He takes the easy way out, more money. But George with LeBron James in Los Angeles is a much better team than George with Russell Westbrook. The Lakers have a skilled core of players as a supporting cast unlike the Thunder’s bench players.
Who would your rather have, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram? Or Jerami Grant and Raymond Felton?
There has been a lot of guessing, many rumors, and I think… from those who do not know. Until George sits down with Magic and then Sam Presti and goes over everything with his family who have agency in his decision making, two cities are bracing for the best and worst.
But if the question is who needs Paul George more, it is OKC. The Thunder with Westbrook and Carmelo going solo are fighting for the 8th seed. Paul George with LeBron James will turn the Western Conference upside down.