Part 2: Reasonable options to try to keep him
If you happen to be a Pacers fan, the best case scenario would be to try and keep Paul George in Indianapolis. He’s the best two way player on the team and one of the 10 best small forwards in the game. There is a good chance (especially with Larry Bird stepping down this past week) that he’s gone. Below are three potential ways the Pacers could try and keep him at home.
Currently, the Pacers are between a rock and a hard place this upcoming off-season.
Fun Question of the Day: What would you do if you had $20 million dollars? If you’re the Pacers, the answer is spend that cap room on Thaddeus Young, Monta Ellis, and Al Jefferson to come off the bench. As of this writing, the Pacers have roughly $13 million dollars going into the offseason with no obvious way to free up more. Trading Thaddeus Young (28/14.7 mil) isn’t the strongest option since he is your best bench big man, even though he doesn’t mesh well with Myles Turner when they are on the court at the same time. Monta Ellis (31/11.2 mil) has never been known for his defensive prowess, but his offensive game regressed this year making him nearly untradeable. Al Jefferson (32/9.7 mil) could be a trade chip for a team looking for size, but he only played in 66 games last season and saw all of his major stats (points and rebounds) cut in half in 2016-2017.
The obvious answer to this problem to maximize cap space is to let CJ Miles walk, while cutting bait on Lavoy Allen, Aaron Brooks, and Kevin Seraphin. Even though letting Miles, a competent 3 point threat, walk, the Pacers can’t afford to pay him the contact he would likely command in free agency (think Solomon Hill a year ago). These moves will increase the cap space marginally, getting it up to roughly $20 million dollars. How the Pacers choose to utilize that money could have a major impact on their future. Below are some of the options they could (and may) need to explore:
Option A: Resign Jeff Teague/ Get bargain help in Free Agency/ Draft a power forward
Option number one is to make sure Jeff Teague stays in Indianapolis, especially after trading for him last offseason. In order for this to work, they will need to let CJ Miles walk, which would hurt a little bit, but they will retain the point guard they worked so hard to acquire last year. The issue is simple, Jeff Teague will likely command Mike Conley money. While the Pacers can offer that to him, it will deal significant damage to their available cap space and hinder their ability to add talent to the bench. Before you call me insane, consider the following:
Player A: 28 years old 31.4MPG, 15.3PPG, 6.1APG, 2.9RPG, 1.2SPG 42/36/83 shooting %
Player B: 28 years old 32.4MPG, 15.3PPG, 7.8APG, 4.0RPG, 1.2SPG 44/35/86 shooting %
Pretty similar right? Player A (Conley) just got a 5yr/152 million dollar contract. Given the NBA cap inflation, it is possible that Player B (Teague, obviously) is in line to earn a similar, if not greater, contract.
Signing Teague is possible, but the Pacers will have to work Free Agency and the draft to fill other holes. One of those needs would be grabbing a big man to play the Power Forward that is a strong rebounder and adequate scorer to pair with Myles Turner. Some possible options at 18 include Bam Adebayo, Harry Giles, and Caleb Swanigan. Not the worst situation, but is it enough to convince Paul George to stay?
A starting 5 consisting of:
PG: Jeff Teague
SG: Glenn Robinson III
SF: Paul George
PF: Drafted Big Man
C: Myles Turner
Top Bench Options: Lance Stephenson, Thaddeus Young
This is a solid enough starting 5 with some good scoring off the bench to complete a solid rotation.
Option B: Go for Gordon Hayward/ Get bargain help in Free Agency/ Draft a point guard
The second option for the Pacers would be to let Jeff Teague walk with the intention of going after hometown kid and former Butler Bulldog, Gordon Hayward. The financial implications are very similar to the above as Hayward would command a max contract that would absorb most of the Pacers cap space. Hayward has worked hard to turn himself into a versatile two way player that most teams would love to have. However, the problems for the Pacers would be two fold.
#1: The point guard options outside the top selection aren’t the strongest. At 18, the Pacers wouldn’t have access to a lot of the premium talent in the draft at point guard (the best one would probably be PJ Dozier from South Carolina according to nbadraft.net). With no heir apparent to Teague on the roster, this isn’t ideal.
#2: Hayward and Paul George play the same position. And are the same size. And share a similar enough style of basketball that it could prove to be a problem. The easiest solution would be to shift Paul George to the 5 and use small ball sets to get players open (George is listed as one inch taller and 10 pounds heavier). However, PG has shown a resistance to playing the 4 in the past, and do you really want to piss off the player you’re trying to keep long term?
Projected Starting 5:
PG: Drafted Player? FA?
SG: Glenn Robinson III
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: Paul George
Bench: Lance Stephenson/Thaddeus Young
Option C: Fortify around PG
Let’s assume the Pacers work with that 20 million dollars in cap listed above. They would have the ability to be flexible to try and build up the roster around Paul George but not absolutely destroy the team. Hypothetically, they could let Teague walk as well and divvy up the money in a way that would improve the roster. For example:
- Patty Mills (28 yrs old) 3 years (1 player option) $24 mil (AAV 8 mil)
- Taj Gibson (31 yrs old) 2 years (1 mutual option) $15 million (AAV 7.5 mil)
- Ian Clark (26 yrs old) 4 years (1 mutual option) $12 million (3 AAV)
With this plan, you get two experienced players on fair market deals (Patty Mills gets a nice bump in his salary to come be your starter at Point Guard, Taj gets a slight cut in salary which is fair given his age) to slot into your starter roles. Ian Clark played solid minutes and put up good numbers (14.8MPG/6.8PPG) on Golden State this year, so you are able to double his salary to come off the bench. Gibson’s game as a gritty rebounder and midrange/post-up player also meshes very well with Myles Turner, he may just be the best available power forward for the Pacers this offseason. If this lineup fails to mesh or doesn’t hit the ground running, you then have the ability to trade Paul George and not suffer a ridiculous drop, it would still be an NBA ready lineup.
PG: Patty Mills
SG: Glenn Robinson III or Ian Clark
SF: Paul George
PF: Taj Gibson
C: Myles Turner
Bench: Glenn Robinson III/Ian Clark, Lance Stephenson, Thaddeus Young
This also doesn’t take into account whoever the Pacers draft this upcoming year. They would have the luxury of picking the best player available, whether it is a guard or a big, to further fortify the bench and develop into a starter with time.
Of course, there are many other options on the table, but at this juncture, these seem like the 3 most likely avenues for the Pacers and George to take if the plan is to try keeping him in Indianapolis.
Next article, I will look at the extremes involving Paul George (aka he’s as good as gone)
Thoughts? Ideas? Think I’m an idiot? Comment or Tweet at me so we can discuss. Make sure you share or retweet so the rest of the world can see how dumb I really am.
Stats from Basketball-reference.com
Contract information from http://www.spotrac.com