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NBA Rumors: Latest Rumblings on Paul George Trade, Blake Griffin and More

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJune 26, 2017

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin warms up prior to an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets in Los Angeles, Wednesday, March 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

By now, NBA fans know one detail more important than any other when it comes to this offseason—don't blink.

The free-agent market hasn't even opened and the happenings around the Association have been borderline exhausting. The draft itself lived up to the hype, while names of varying status such as Jimmy Butler and D'Angelo Russell found themselves shipped away via trade.

Trades won't stop capturing the imagination, though, not with names like Paul George floating around and endless sign-and-trade scenarios possible. Free agency? Names like Stephen Curry, Gordon Hayward, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin headline one of the more interesting classes in years.

To help keep pace with this don't-blink theme, let's take a look at the latest rumblings from around the league.

     

Lakers Set a George Price?

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers sit in a precarious position.

Now, fans will point out things look better than they have for the team over the past three or four years. True. But here's the problem—inaction now could mean missing out on a superstar like George.

Johnson has done well for the Lakers so far, drafting Lonzo Ball and managing to dump Timofey Mozgov's contract while clearing Russell from the roster in the same transaction.

Now the Lakers could perhaps put together a package capable of bringing George to town, especially after the man himself told the Indiana Pacers he's interested in the Lakers and will hit the open market in 2018, per The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.

But the Lakers have balked in discussions for George because of one name—Brandon Ingram.

Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer revealed the impasse: "The Pacers did talk to the Los Angeles Lakers about a package starting with Brandon Ingram, but the 19-year-old forward is exactly the kind of athletic player Magic Johnson wants on his team."

Talk about a war of wills. The Lakers spent years recovering from Kobe Bryant's farewell tour and didn't stand a chance at major free agents. But the front office rebuilt the right way through the draft.

Now the team could throw the patience-based approach out the window right now for George.

It makes sense if the Lakers don't want to because of Ingram, the 2016 No. 2 pick with superstar potential of his own. And provided George doesn't land with the Cleveland Cavaliers (and he might...more on that in a bit) and win a title, the Lakers might land him in free agency and he'll play alongside Ingram instead of being a reason he's no longer in town.

The Lakers have gambled often recently while trying to escape the cellar. But not like this.

     

Surprise Griffin Suitor Emerges

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - APRIL 21: Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers handles the ball during the game against the Utah Jazz during the Western Conference Quarter-finals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on April 21, 2017 at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

One of the more predictable moves of the offseason so far was Blake Griffin opting out of his contract with the Los Angeles Clippers alongside point guard Chris Paul.

Griffin, like Paul, looks a new max contract right in the eye thanks to his decision. He'll make about $175 million if he re-ups with the Clippers or about $130 million if he decides to sign elsewhere. 

A team like the Denver Nuggets would sure love if Griffin was comfortable with a pay cut or a change of scenery.

Marc Stein and Chris Haynes of ESPN.com broke the report about Denver's surprise entrance to the Griffin sweepstakes: "Denver, according to sources, also hopes to crash the list of suitors for Los Angeles Clippers unrestricted free agent Blake Griffin and Atlanta Hawks unrestricted free agent Paul Millsap."

It's an unexpected turn of events. Before the report, speculation pointed at teams such as the Boston Celtics or maybe the Oklahoma City Thunder as possible destinations for the star forward, should he choose to leave the Clippers.

Denver is a different conversation entirely. The roster has a budding core ready to compete over the next few years. A high-upside backcourt featuring names such as Jamal Murray, Emmanuel Mudiay and Gary Harris is only secondary in impressiveness to breakout star Nikola Jokic underneath the basket.

Jokic, 22, exploded onto the scene last year with averages of 16.7 points and 9.8 rebounds on 57.8 percent shooting. Slap a presence like Griffin next to him and opponents will have a hard time slowing Denver's attack.

Of course, Griffin has to want such a pairing while taking a gigantic slash in salary. He'd also surrender playing alongside Paul, or perhaps even Russell Westbrook or Isaiah Thomas. But crazier things have happened and this supposed interest at least confirms the fact the Nuggets will do everything they can to upgrade around Jokic in the coming years.

             

George Three-Way Deal Emerges

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Then again, the Nuggets might take themselves out of the Griffin sweepstakes if the front office finds itself involved in a monster trade including names such as George and Kevin Love.

With the Lakers seemingly balking at Indiana's asking price, Denver is now a team to watch when it comes to the Pacers seeking quality assets in return for George alongside Cleveland's pursuit to win the arms race and better compete with the Golden State Warriors.

Stein loosely revealed the workings of a potential three-team deal:

Marc Stein @TheSteinLine

League sources: Cavs, Pacers and Nuggets have discussed a three-way deal that would land Paul George in Cleveland and Kevin Love in Denver

In the ESPN.com write-up above, Stein goes on to point out the Nuggets might be comfortable moving assets like Mudiay, Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler if it means appeasing the Pacers and getting Love.

Call it a greedy move by the Nuggets, who don't mind if they help the Cavaliers distance themselves even further from the rest of the Eastern Conference. The team can afford to lose forwards who wouldn't play if Love arrived. Ditto for Mudiay, who is stuck behind Murray. Getting back Love, who is still only 28 and averaged 19.0 points and 11.1 rebounds last year, is a major win given how he can space the floor for Jokic.

The potential workings of this deal aren't the most attractive for Denver, but it sure beats getting nothing at all for George's departure. Oklahoma City showed off what a small-market team can suffer if failing to get ahead of the curve when it comes to a superstar leaving. Mudiay and other assets at least give the front office something to build around in the coming years.

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

It doesn't really need to be said, but Cleveland would be the big winner here. With beating the Warriors in mind, George furthers this goal in a major way. LeBron James looked gassed near the end of games in this year's Finals—which wouldn't happen if George could stick on Kevin Durant, freeing LeBron to do what he does on the offensive end.

For fun, keep in mind LeBron has an option after next season, meaning he'd hit the market when George does. Meaning, also, this offseason isn't nearly as crazy as next year's might be.

Either way, George's time with the Pacers continues to run out and third parties like the Nuggets won't stop emerging. Don't blink.

           

All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

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