Indiana Pacers journey in the postseason is on the highway to an early stop after getting paired against Cleveland Cavaliers. As good as the Pacers have been in the last rounds of the regular season, the matchup looks one too steep to scale. The best efforts from Indiana would be a Game 7 like it panned out last season against the then second seed Toronto Raptors.
Paul George and Co. can and will cause Cleveland headaches but the team’s iffy shooting, stagnant offense and the lack of a solid second option behind George is too hard to ignore. So expect James to march on to the next round to face the winner in the Toronto Raptors-Milwaukee Bucks Series.
But the drama in Indiana would be just as frenzy as events happening in the rest of the postseason and it all boils down to star man Paul George whose free agency situation is up up in the air. Of course, George isn’t the only Pacer whose contract will be under the scope after the season. Point Guard Jeff Teague and Swingman CJ Miles paperwork are on the table to be worked on by Larry Bird and the rest of the team’s top brass but George’s remain paramount.
Although George willed Indiana to the playoffs, his play this season has been a bit underwhelming in light of the amazing things he did on his return from a gruesome leg injury last season. As a result, George is unlikely to land an All-NBA Team selection after the league champions are crowned.
Once he doesn’t get a spot on the three teams made up of selections by media personnel, he automatically misses out on an extra $75 million he would be eligible to get from only Indiana once he signs a new contract. Due to the Designated Player Extension rule, players entering their second contracts have to make the All NBA team or win a Defensive Player of the Year Award or MVP Award to activate the clause. George is one of such players and he knows it.
Close to the end of the season, he stated he deserved to be named in the All-NBA Team but it is hard to see the former Fresno State star make that list considering the high caliber of performance his contemporaries have had this season. Names like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green readily come to mind as talents better placed to make the cut than George.
For many people’s money Utah Jazz’ Gordon Hayward checks in ahead of George after Hayward’s stellar work leading his team to place fourth. Though George has done well by ensuring he makes the grade as a playoff contender and nothing like DeMarcus Cousins who made the list last season despite missing out on the postseason, his position is just way too stacked for him to inch through. Without the extra cash advantage, Indiana is handicapped as its offer can and will be matched by teams in search of top class free agents like Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia Sixers.
However, neither of these teams has the bearings of an immediate contender that will attract a guy like George to town irrespective of his Los Angeles connection. But for contenders like Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics, cap space can be created to take in George’s near maximum contract. Boston can sign Isaiah Thomas to a maximum contract and sign George while dealing away players set to hit big money for those on the cheap. For Chicago, Jimmy Butler’s $19 million annual salary is valuable to get George by his side should the Bulls management decide not pick up the $10 million option on Rajon Rondo’s contract next season.
Dwayne Wade’s $23 million dollar contract could be bought out should he activate his player option for 2017-2018. Wade’s pride is likely to prevent him from signing to reign the deal in if he feels not wanted. Denver Nuggets, who almost signed him are bound to offer more money and unquestioned leadership in the locker room more than Chicago’s management and top talent Jimmy Butler, can. For the Bulls, Pairing Butler and George will be a partnership created by the basketball god’s the way it was made for Orlando Magic with Tarcy McGrady and Grant Hill on its roster.
In all these scenarios, Indiana loses out and should George decline to sign an extension, the team will be forced to trade him. Pacers fans should buckle up because this offseason is definitely going to quite a ride.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter