The top two free agents this NBA offseason are LeBron James and Kevin Durant. We still have no idea what James will do, and Durant is all but a sure thing to return to the Golden State Warriors.
After that, though, the best prize available is Paul George. The Oklahoma City Thunder swingman is an excellent perimeter defender and a dynamic, albeit inconsistent, scorer. Not counting his 2014-15 campaign in which he played just six games, he has made five consecutive All-Star appearances.
MyBookie has posted odds on where the Thunder forward will play during the 2018-19 season. The Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder are the two most likely options, but let’s break down all of his main choices.
Los Angeles Lakers (-220 with MyBookie)
Los Angeles is George’s hometown, and rumors have been swirling for a long time about his interest in playing for the Purple and Gold. George has publicly stated how cool it would be.
The Lakers are always mentioned as a big free-agent destination, but they have struck out a lot recently since the team hasn’t made the playoffs in five seasons. If George is to sign in Tinseltown, the team may have to assure him that one of the other high-quality free agents (LeBron James, possibly?) is also joining.
As of right now, Los Angeles doesn’t have a strong enough roster to contend for a championship if George is their only big acquisition. That could be a factor in PG-13’s decision.
The Field (+300 with MyBookie)
To clarify, MyBookie gives individual team odds for the Lakers, Thunder, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers. The other 23 teams are considered “the field” here.
Do any of those 23 squads have a legit shot at acquiring George this summer? Considering George is a 28-year-old star who has had his share of playoff failures, he is probably looking for a squad that can help him contend for that elusive NBA title. The Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics are three teams who might be in contention here, though there would have to be some slick maneuvers of the salary cap and trades to get them in some of those places.
Overall, it seems very unlikely that he will go to one of the teams aside from the seven that are listed.
Oklahoma City Thunder (+350 with MyBookie)
Don’t sleep on the possibility of George re-signing with the Thunder. He grew very close with fellow Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook this season, despite the team’s slightly underwhelming 48-34 record and its first-round loss to the Utah Jazz.
George said near the end of the regular season that he never saw the 2017-18 campaign as a “championship or bust season.” He also mentioned that he can definitely see himself staying in Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma City can also offer George the most money, since they own his Bird rights as the incumbent team. They may or may not do so, but even the possibility that they do is a vote in favor of the Thunder’s odds.
Philadelphia 76ers (+500 with MyBookie)
The chance to go to the less competitive Eastern Conference could be attractive to George. The Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, along with potentially the Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs, is a tough group of teams to contend with for a Western Conference championship.
Philly should be George’s top East option, as the Sixers are clearly on the rise and have the need for more shot creation on the perimeter. He, along with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, would be an amazing trio on both offense and defense. Who knows, maybe the 76ers can also get LeBron, which would make this an even more attractive option for George.
Paul George Final Recommendations
We didn’t discuss the odds of the four other individual teams listed by MyBookie, but the Nets (+700), Pacers (+750), Clippers (+800) and Cavaliers (+950) all seem like long shots. The Nets aren’t ready to contend, and George just requested a trade from the Pacers organization last summer. The Clippers’ future isn’t as bright and its history isn’t as rich as their neighbor Lakers. The Cavaliers have made a bunch of questionable front office decisions in the past few years. If LeBron James leaves Cleveland, which is likely, there’s no chance George will go to the Cavs.
The two smartest bets listed are going with either the Thunder or 76ers. Both are equally strong investments.
Oklahoma City has cultivated a winning culture over its franchise’s history, and George could very well want to stay with the likes of Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson and Steven Adams to try and create something special. Meanwhile, Philly offers an attractive conference switch to George, which could ultimately lure him to the rising Sixers squad.