At just less than $3.3 million for this upcoming season, Paul George might be the NBA's most underpaid player (Kyrie Irving's $5.6 million ain't to shabby either). That, however, will change next season, when the 23 year-old becomes a restricted free agent.
George has taken a very natural progression in his career so far. He has proven himself to be an effective two-way player, and in last year's playoffs, he showed that he's not that far off from becoming on of the NBA's next perennial All Stars.
Teams are going to be lining up next year to throw money at him. That is, unless the Pacers can lock him up to a long term deal before any offer sheets can be sent his way. During a recent radio appearance, George said he and the team had spoken about doing just that.
Pacers officials, who one agent recently described to Pacers.com as “the best people in the world to ever do business with,” have talked with George and his camp about their intentions.
“It’s still early,” George said, “but we’ve talked and I think we’re on the same page. It’s mutual where we’re at.
“It’s all about loyalty and that’s what I’m strong on is being loyal.”
I am sure that's a relief to Pacers fans, even though he threw in this little tidbit about his home town Lakers:
George said that him hypothetically joining the Lakers would certainly be a “family-favorite team.”
“Of course it would be tough (to say no to Kobe). You’re talking about playing [at] home.”
Of course it would be hard to say no to Kobe, and the Lakers' insane amount of cap space, and maybe another All Star or two who could all be signed in a Mitch Kupchak free-agent blitzkrieg that snaps your family's favorite team into an instant contender in fewer parsecs than it took Han Solo to make the Kessel run (nerd note: we know that parsecs is a measure of distance, not time).
In case you have not noticed, Kobe's just dying for an heir to his throne. And he knows you already look good in yellow, so the Pacers had better hope this mutual "same page" is enough to get this deal done during the regular season. Because if this things gets to July, you really cannot risk letting George go face-to-face with a guy he idolized as a child.
Remember, when Paul George was 13 years old, Kobe was three rings into his Lakers career. You do not want that allure just sitting out there next summer if you are the Pacers. You do not want kids talking to childhood heroes when those childhood heroes can poach the centerpiece of your franchise for the next five years.
The bottom line is simple. Indy will have to offer George a max deal. If they do not, someone else will.