Paul George Reportedly Tells Pacers He Will Test Free Agency, Prefers Lakers

Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistJune 18, 2017

Indiana Pacers' Paul George reacts during the first half in Game 3 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers,Thursday, April 20, 2017, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Paul George's future with the Indiana Pacers appears to be in doubt.

On Sunday, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reported George told his team he plans to enter free agency in the summer of 2018 and prefers to play elsewhere. League sources told Wojnarowski the Los Angeles Lakers are George's desired destination.

The Pacers have begun asking teams "for ideas" on a possible George trade, according to Turner Sports' David Aldridge. He added teams are "skittish" about Indiana's asking price of two first-round picks and a starter. 

George's contract includes a player option for the 2018-19 season, and his agent told the Pacers his plans so the organization can adjust accordingly moving forward, according to Wojnarowski. Since George wasn't a member of an All-NBA team this past season, Indiana cannot offer him a five-year, $207 million designated player veteran exception. Instead, the most it can offer is $177 million over five years.

The Lakers can only offer George a four-year deal worth roughly $130 million, but he is a Southern California native and would essentially be coming back home.

The Pacers could attempt to trade George this offseason to avoid losing him for nothing, but they don't have much leverage. Other teams won't want to give up much since they could lose him next offseason, while Los Angeles can wait until 2018 and sign him as a free agent without forfeiting assets in a trade.

According to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, the Lakers "do not currently intend to part with any of their young assets in a trade with the Pacers." Wojnarowski later added the Pacers are "engaging teams" regarding George and noted there is a rental market for the star.

George is a two-way star who can become the focal point of Los Angeles' rebuild under president of basketball operations Magic Johnson. He can blossom for years to come alongside young players such as D'Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.

The 27-year-old George is playoff-tested with 65 postseason games on his resume, many of which came in showdowns with LeBron James. He could offer veteran leadership, versatile defense, the ability to shoot the three or drive the lane and a go-to option on the offensive side as the Lakers attempt to rediscover their glory days following four straight seasons of fewer than 30 wins.