Report: Paul George Told Thunder He'll Opt out of Contract to Become Free Agent

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJune 28, 2018

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George (13) during Game 5 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series between the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder n Oklahoma City, Wednesday, April 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Paul George reportedly informed the team he will opt out of his $20.7 million player option for the 2018-19 season Thursday, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Wojnarowski added that George is still "seriously interested" in returning to OKC in addition to giving "serious consideration" to signing with the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Philadelphia 76ers and Houston Rockets are also expected to pursue George, per Wojnarowski.

George's decision is hardly surprising. For one, he'll likely now sign a max contract. For another, there have been whispers for the past year that George wanted to play for his hometown Lakers and didn't want to return to the Thunder.

While those plans remain unclear, his options are now wide-open.

It is no secret that the Lakers intend to go hard after George considering he grew up in nearby Palmdale, California, and has long been linked to the franchise. And Sports Illustrated's Robin Lundberg reportedly obtained the pitch this week that the Lakers plan to use to lure George to L.A.

Also, George will be heavily linked to LeBron James throughout the free-agent process since it is believed the Lakers could potentially sign both wings. This week, OddsShark released odds on which other free agents are most likely to be LeBron's teammate in 2018-19. George has the best odds at 3-1 (+300), but it is considered more likely they won't team up, with odds of 11-50 (-450).

Per Sam Amick of USA Today, it will be "widely considered a big blow" to the Lakers' chances of signing James if George decides to re-sign with the Thunder.

George, 28, had a solid season for the Thunder, averaging 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. Nonetheless, there was an adjustment period for the Thunder, as the additions of George and Carmelo Anthony didn't immediately jell with Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams and Andre Roberson, among others.

While the team made the playoffs, they were eliminated in the first round by the Utah Jazz. That called into question the futures of several players, most notably George and Anthony, going forward.

While George's skill set fit rather seamlessly next to Westbrook's ball-dominant style of play, Anthony never adjusted to the stretch-4, off-the-ball role the Thunder asked him to play. And Anthony, a 10-time All-Star, made it clear he had no intention of accepting a role off the bench anytime soon.

Melo reportedly decided last week that he would opt in on the final year of his contract in 2018-19 for nearly $28 million.

The George question is the bigger concern. The Thunder remain a playoff threat so long as Westbrook is in town, but whether they'll ascend to the level of the Golden State Warriors or Rockets in the Western Conference will be contingent upon if George returns.

This is a huge summer for the Thunder, and it either begins or ends with George.

Related

    Report: Pat Bev to Meet with Multiple Teams Before Clippers

    NBA logo
    NBA

    Report: Pat Bev to Meet with Multiple Teams Before Clippers

    Scott Polacek
    via Bleacher Report

    How the OKC Can Get Better This Offseason

    Oklahoma City Thunder logo
    Oklahoma City Thunder

    How the OKC Can Get Better This Offseason

    Thunderous Intentions
    via Thunderous Intentions

    5 Options for Pick No. 21 in the Draft

    Oklahoma City Thunder logo
    Oklahoma City Thunder

    5 Options for Pick No. 21 in the Draft

    Hoops Habit
    via Hoops Habit

    What to Watch This Week 📺

    🏀 NBA draft on Thursday

    NBA logo
    NBA

    What to Watch This Week 📺

    🏀 NBA draft on Thursday

    Corey Knapp
    via Bleacher Report