When Paul George re-signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder — and left all Lakers fans stunned — Saturday night, a few things could be gleaned.
First, he most certainly followed the money. As Adrian Wojnarowski reported, George cashed in with the franchise that could give him the most.
Here's essence of Paul George's 4-year, $137M deal, w/ player option: New CBA allows George to extend after 2nd anniversary of deal. Extending on max w/ OKC after year 2, while also opting out of final year, could make this 7-year, $290M-plus deal based on future cap projections.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 1, 2018
Secondly, George was either (a) not as desired by the Lakers as many believed or (b) the Lakers did like the idea of adding the all-star but had a change of heart when Kawhi Leonard became available. Or maybe it was neither. Maybe George really fell in love with OKC after a year there and decided being wanted, as much as they seemed to want him, was worth staying put.
Thirdly, the Thunder are confused, desperate, and snake-bitten. Can this team, as constructed, be better than the Warriors? Ok, we know that answer. But how about this: are they even better than the version we just saw, finish 4th in the West and get trounced by Utah in the first round? It’s hard to imagine the 2018-19 Thunder will be better than the Warriors, the Rockets, or the Lakers (assuming they look, how shall we say, differently). And who’s to say they’ll have any sort of edge over Portland or Utah. Plus, Denver will be considerably better than the 9 they finished last season. The point is OKC has a lot of money wrapped up in Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, George, and Steven Adams. They have Andre Roberson coming back and did re-sign Jerami Grant, but what else is there and where is the room to add anything else?
GM Sam Presti and the Thunder front office have been burned before — a la Kevin Durant. (By the way, it’s interesting how Russ planned a huge house party for PG and all the Thunder players and management yet did nothing of the sort to try and make a pitch to KD a few years ago.) And this seems more of a reactionary move to losing Durant — how could the fan base the another star player leaving their city for a likely championship somewhere else? That said, is this the right way to build this team moving forward. I get the rationale by Presti, but I just don’t think it’s the prudent thing as far as the franchise’s future. OKC is strapped for cash for the foreseeable future and the roster isn’t good enough to win the West.
Russ isn’t exactly easy to play with and, as great as his numbers are, sometimes numbers don’t tell the whole story. The question the Thunder will have to confront at some point (and I think now might have been the best time to do so) is this team capable of winning a championship with Westbrook as the centerpiece? Certainly, it isn’t right now; but can it be before the end of PG’s new deal — say when the Warriors reign of terror is over in maybe 2 or 3 years? Maybe, but 3 years is a long time to project and let’s be honest — Russ plays hard on his own body because of his style of play and he can wear on teammates. So who’s to say what level of play he’s at three years down the road and what George thinks of playing alongside the ball-dominant point guard for that many years.
So where does this leave the Thunder now? That’s easy: the same spot they’ve been since losing Durant — a middling playoff team that can be exciting to watch but won’t threaten the top teams in the conference.
Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.