John Wall arrived to the first-ever NBA Awards in a bright-red three-piece suit and cheetah-print shoes, but it wasn’t his flashiest move of the night. Before the show even began, Wall told ESPN’s The Undefeated that he was recruiting Paul George to Washington.
"I am talking to [George]," Wall said. "I know his ultimate goal of where he wants to be. I’m trying to see if we can make something happen."
That "ultimate goal" might be the Finals, but where else the forward wants to be has largely been reported as Los Angeles. Specifically with the Lakers. Less specifically, just out of Indiana. George’s agent told his organization last week that he is not interested in staying a Pacer after he becomes eligible for an opt-out in June 2018.
Just after the draft, Indiana GM Kevin Pritchard said that the team had enough offers for George that he could "pull the trigger at any time" and "feel good about" it. The Cavaliers and Celtics are the franchises at the forefront of those trade rumors, ones that hope to acquire George as a "one-year rental," then sway PG from L.A after a season of success. Cleveland, who just parted ways with GM David Griffin, is not in a good position to bargain. Boston has been in every free-agency conversation, and there’s no telling if Danny Ainge is willing to give up what Indiana wants as a return. But, luckily for Wall and the Wizards, there’s been no action so far.
With its limited assets, Washington would need to stretch to make a deal happen. Wall and Bradley Beal are presumably off the table, leaving restricted free agent Otto Porter Jr. as the next-most-attractive trade chip. The Pacers have enough cap space to outright sign Porter to an offer sheet if they want to. But if Porter were included in a trade package as a sign-and-trade, other assets like a couple of first-rounders or Kelly Oubre could be included. Depending on the trade’s structure, NBA rules would potentially require a nonsimultaneous deal for it to be eligible, another hurdle for the Wizards.
"Look at our team. We are one piece away," Wall said Monday night. "Our 3-man [Porter] did great for us. You can’t take nothing away from what he did. But [George] is a guy that can guard LeBron and go back at LeBron. It’s a piece that you’re going to need to win. If you don’t have a guy who can do that, you don’t have a chance."
Letting go of Porter is risky, and even if Wall is sold on the upgrade, that’s a stiff price for just one guaranteed year. Washington is exactly where George and Indiana were a few seasons ago — skilled, but not quite enough to top the Eastern Conference. The Pacers never cleared that benchmark, and now Paul George is ready to leave the table. The same could happen to the Wizards; it’s easy to imagine a scenario where, after the surrender of Porter and some first-rounders, a George departure leaves a deserted roster and little appeal for a talent like Wall to stay.
"We have the point guard, we have the shooting guard," said Wall. "We have the center," — (???) — "we have the power forward… You got to add another star. You got to add another piece. You got to have three guys. And that’s what it’s looking like."
Wall’s not wrong there, save his optimism about Marcin Gortat. Even the best in the East, the Cavaliers, need to upgrade their Big 3 this offseason. If Washington is willing to offer its most valuable pieces, the playoff team with this season’s thinnest bench just might be the ones to get George. They’ll have one year to do something with him.