The Indiana Pacers are pegged as one of the rising teams in the Eastern Conference. But if it does not work out for the Pacers next season, experts predict that their superstar, Paul George could leave via free agency or even a via trade so that Larry Bird can rebuild the roster in Indiana as soon as possible.
Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer contends that pressure is on the Pacers to improve in the 2016-2017 NBA Season. The team must win and perform well in the NBA Playoffs or they could face a rebuild with many of their players’ contracts expiring soon.
“If the new-look Pacers regress defensively and don’t flourish offensively, they’ll be right back in the middle; or worse, they could conceivably miss the playoffs in an improving East,” O’Connor wrote.
“That would put them in a dangerous position next summer, with Teague set to hit free agency, and George, Young, and Monta Ellis all with player options that could make them free agents in 2018.”
According to O’Connor, this would pressure team president Larry Bird, who can consider making deals closer to the trade deadline in February 2018.
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In the article, there are also Lakers rumors that the Pacers might prefer a “total rebuild if things don’t go according to plan” and make George available in a trade. That could happen in the 2016-2017 season if the current group struggles early in the regular season with many teams targeting their All-Star forward.
One team mentioned are the Los Angeles Lakers, which are in rebuilding mode as well and have many young pieces to trade to Indiana if they want to make a deal.
“L.A.’s interest in George might be mutual, too: George was a Lakers fan who idolized Kobe Bryant while growing up in Palmdale, California, and even called the Lakers a “family-favorite team” before extending his Pacers contract in 2013,” O’Connor mentioned in his article.
“Purple and Gold fans are notorious for assuming stars are destined for Los Angeles, but this time around they could be onto something.”
George has three years left in his deal in Indiana, which pays him about $18 million per season. The Pacers will hold on to him but if a deal is in place to get back young players and high draft picks, then Indiana might consider.
A Lakers offer of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and future first rounders could make Bird think about giving up Paul George. Or if Los Angeles really wants George and compete immediately, they can give up Brandon Ingram.
Expect more Lakers rumors this season depending on how other teams like Indiana performs. If some of these teams don’t play well, the L.A. team has the assets to make blockbuster trades during the season