In what’s probably the most Indiana Pacers move of all time the Indiana Pacers traded star forward Paul George to Oklahoma City late Friday night in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
You read that right. In the dead of night the Pacers traded their star forward for Victor Oladipo and some dude named Domantas.
Now let’s get one thing straight, I’m not criticizing the Pacers for trading George, they had to. George forced his way out of town last week when he announced that he wouldn’t resign with Indiana, prompting the organization to reopen serious trade talks and ensure they get something before it’s too late. (And Sabonis is probably a little better than I’m giving him credit for) What I’m criticizing the Pacers for is not showing the fortitude to wait it out and get a fair value back. I’m criticizing them for not taking the best deal on the table.
According to reports the Celtics were one of the strongest contenders pursuing George and made a number of offers for the 27-year-old. One offer before last February’s trade deadline would have centered on the 2017 first-round pick via the Brooklyn Nets – which became number one overall – and three other future first-round picks.
According to the Boston Globe the Celtics offered another package at the NBA Draft that included three starters and two first-round picks. Neither of the picks included the 2018 Brooklyn pick or the future first they acquired from Philadelphia but a package of three starters (rumored to include Jay Crowder, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart) and two first-round picks feels like a steal for a player who’s entering the final year of his contract. Indiana declined that offer too.
Up until Friday night it was believed the Celtics and Pacers continued negotiations. If the Pacers were willing to wait for the Celtics to sign a big name free agent (Gordon Hayward) they would have walked away with a treasure chest of assets to begin their rebuild. Indiana declined to wait it out.
While Boston seemed to have the best offer on the table the Green weren’t the only one in on George. The Rockets, Wizards, Nuggets and even Cavaliers were reportedly coveting Indiana’s star and all had seemingly better offers than Oklahoma City. Denver had reportedly put Emmanuel Mudiay on the table white the Wizards were rumored to have offered Otto Porter and a first-round pick. Cleveland was ready to swap Kevin Love for George.
So with all of these offers on the table what prompted Indiana to send George to Oklahoma City for so little?
“I guess they think Sabonis is good,” one NBA exec texted the Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor.
Or is it just another bewildering decision made by the Indiana Pacers, a franchise that’s perpetually stuck in the no man’s land that’s in-between a Finals contender and a team always in the lottery.
Let’s go back over a couple other bad Pacers trades to see just how bewildering the Indiana front office has been. In June of 1981 the Pacers traded a 1984 first-round pick for center Tom Owens. Owens played just one season for Indiana before retiring after the 1982-83 season. That first-round pick, however, ended up becoming second overall and would’ve landed the Pacers the opportunity to draft Michael Jordan who instead famously went to the Bulls.
Need a more recent example? Think back to 2011 when the Pacers sent the draft rights for Kawhi Leonard, Davis Bertans, and Erazem Lorbek to San Antonio for George Hill. The Pacers lost a future Finals MVP, Defensive Player of the Year player and NBA superstar for Hill, a facilitator who’s not even with Indiana anymore.
Those are just two examples in the Pacers a long history of puzzling trades. On Friday Paul George’s exile to Oklahoma City was added to the list but should we really be surprised? After all this is the Pacers were talking about.