The Pacers have made no secret of their intent to trade George once he informed the team that he would leave the franchise in free agency next summer, presumably for his hometown Los Angeles Lakers. That hasn’t stopped the Cleveland Cavaliers from heavily pursuing the four-time All-Star, and the Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs have also reportedly shown interest.
From the NBA Awards Show on Monday, Wall threw the Wizards’ hat into the ring, via The Undefeated:
“I am talking to some guys — Paul. I know his ultimate goal of where he wants to be. I’m trying to see if we can make something happen.
“Look at our team. We are one piece away. We have the point guard, we have the shooting guard, we have the center, we have the power forward. Our 3-man did great for us. You can’t take nothing away from what he did. But [George] is a guy that can guard LeBron [James] and go back at LeBron. It’s a piece that you’re going to need to win. If you don’t have a guy who can do that, you don’t have a chance. …
“You got to add another star. You got to add another piece. You got to have three guys. And that’s what it’s looking like.”
That “3-man” Wall referenced is Otto Porter Jr., a 24-year-old restricted free agent who stands to receive a hefty raise this summer after enjoying a career year in Washington. He is also not as good as George, and Wall has made no qualms about chiding his own teammates if it means the Wizards can improve upon a roster that came within a game of the Eastern Conference Finals this past season.
When the Celtics beat the Wizards in Game 7 of Washington’s third conference semifinals appearance in four years, Wall told CSN Mid-Atlantic’s Chris Miller, “We need to help our bench. Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the semifinals, our bench got outplayed.”
George would do nothing to improve Wizards’ bench, unless they were able to keep Porter and make him a reserve, but the Pacers forward would give Washington one of the league’s most lethal starting lineups, completing a five-man unit that already includes Wall, Bradley Beal, Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat. That quartet, along with Porter, outscored opponents by 18 points per 100 possessions over 250 minutes in the playoffs, so you can imagine how potent they might be with George.
But Washington’s “downfall” in the playoffs may also be its undoing in its pursuit of a third star. Since drafting Porter in 2013, the Wizards have drafted one player in the first round, Kelly Oubre Jr., who showed some promise on the wing while playing 15 minutes a night in the playoffs. But he’s not a player Washington general manager Ernie Grunfeld can build a trade package for George around.
The Wizards traded their 2014 and 2016 picks for Gortat and Morris, respectively, and then dealt this year’s first-rounder to rent restricted free agent Bojan Bogdanovic from the Brooklyn Nets for a couple months. They dealt their second-round pick for journeyman point guard Tim Frazier from the New Orleans Pelicans last week, and again — none of these are pieces the Pacers would covet in return.
When presented with cap space in 2017, the Wizards could not even land a meeting with D.C. area native Kevin Durant. So, Grunfeld spent the bulk of his available resources on Ian Mahinmi, whose four-year, $64 million contract will serve as an albatross through 2020. As a result, the Wizards are pushed up against the cap and may have little choice but to match whatever (likely hefty) offer comes Porter’s way in free agency. With Beal signed to a max deal last summer and Wall eligible for the super-max this summer, the Wizards are locked into their current crop of assets until at least 2019.
The Wizards finally have their own first-round pick moving forward, but the question is whether Grunfeld would risk sending a couple more of those off for what could be a one-year rental of George.
Wall might be right — Washington is “one piece away” from contention — but as currently constituted, they’re good enough to make the playoffs and not quite good enough to win their own conference. Unfortunately, that also means their first-round picks generally fall in the late teens and early 20s, which is another obstacle Grunfeld would face in trying to pry George away from the Pacers.
Could a pair of mid-to-late first-round picks, Oubre and a sign-and-trade of Porter be enough to land George, even if only for 2017-18? The Cavs, with Kevin Love, and the Celtics, with a plethora of high-end picks and young players, could probably top that offer fairly easily. But that’s not something Wall has to worry about when he’s making a wish list and calling his friends about playing together.
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