Paul George Rumors: 'Growing Belief' Thunder Have a Chance to Re-Sign Free Agent

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2018

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George during Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz in Oklahoma City, Sunday, April 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

After their disappointing first-round exit in the 2018 NBA playoffs, it looked like the Oklahoma City Thunder's odds of re-signing Paul George were trending downward heading into the summer.

According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, however, the Thunder may have a realistic shot at keeping George around.

Stein reported (h/t Thunder Wire's Cody Taylor) that OKC "has a far better chance to retain the free agent-to-be [George] than many believed when the Thunder crashed out of the first round of the playoffs."

Adrian Wojnarowski reported for Yahoo Sports last offseason that George informed the Indiana Pacers he wasn't re-signing with the team and preferred to go to the Los Angeles Lakers. George is a native of Palmdale, California, and the Lakers have roughly $61.8 million in practical salary-cap space, according to Spotrac, which is more than enough to sign George and another marquee free agent.

George had a solid first season with the Thunder, averaging 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists. More importantly, he had a largely fruitful on-court partnership with Russell Westbrook.

"There were some highs and lows, but I thought it was good," George told reporters in April. "It was a learning experience for me. I thought we both grew together trying to get that chemistry."

George's final decision will have ripple effects throughout the rest of the NBA.

If he stays with the Thunder, then the Lakers will have to turn their attention elsewhere in free agency. Enticing another star to sign in L.A. might prove difficult if George isn't on board, too. The Houston Rockets would also have to cross off one target they could've used to catch up with the Golden State Warriors.

Should George leave Oklahoma City, things could get dark for the Thunder. They wouldn't have the cap space to pursue a free agent of similar quality, and they don't have the assets to swing another big trade. A team built around Westbrook, Steven Adams and possibly Carmelo Anthony wouldn't offer a ton of promise in 2018-19.

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