Before we dive into a July Fourth–weekend-long Glengarry Glen Ross speech about which general managers do or don’t deserve the Paul George Leads, let’s take a moment to appreciate the real theater here: Paul George is bringing his offense and his defense to Oklahoma City, joining the reigning MVP, Russell Westbrook, in a union of two of the best athletes in basketball. Just don’t get too used to it — this could be a limited run.
What is the opposite of a five-year plan? Because that’s what’s happening. George can opt out and become a free agent after the 2017–18 season. I would bet all the money I have that he will not re-sign with OKC, IF I HADN’T JUST LOST ALL THE MONEY I HAVE BETTING THAT HE WOULD NOT GET TRADED TO OKC. This is the Kobayashi Maru of NBA trades. If George leaves in free agency and Westbrook opts out of the last year of his deal and walks, the Thunder could be a rec-league team. But until then, this is going to be very, very fun.
Westbrook got his folk-hero season, but he is too good to waste away on scrappy teams with no one to help him. Take it from an Allen Iverson worshiper. Put aside your For or Against Russ differences — we can all agree that he should be playing meaningful games with good teammates, not DIY productions of Our Town staged in a barn with Enes Kanter. And if this is Russ’s swan song with OKC, then Sam Presti gave him one hell of a songwriting partner.
George is the best teammate Westbrook has had since Kevin Durant left OKC, and Russ is the best teammate George will have played with in his entire career. PG-13 averaged 23.7 points on 46 percent shooting with 6.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game last season. He shot at a near-40-percent clip from beyond the arc, and routinely took the opposing team’s best perimeter player and put him in his back pocket. He should especially enjoy Westbrook’s drive-and-kick passing — George’s catch-and-shoot peers are Steph Curry and Bradley Beal. He scored 7.4 points per game off catch-and-shoot attempts last season. He is Andre Roberson, if Andre Roberson were Spider-Man.
Now we have two reasons to watch the Oklahoma City Thunder next year. I wish we had a particle accelerator so that we could start the season TONIGHT. I’m going long on the basketball rim suppliers in OKC. This:
Is teaming up with this:
This is going to be appointment viewing from the second George arrives (provided he, you know, gets on the plane to OKC) to the moment he’s dealt for picks at the deadline or leaves for Los Angeles next summer. The impending free agency of George, and possibly Westbrook, only makes the whole scenario more intense.
Forget the 24-second clock. This team has a 12-month clock, and it is ticking like John Bonham’s drums. Has there ever been a more explicitly present-tense team — both in style of play and prospective longevity — than the 2017–18 Oklahoma City Thunder? Time’s up, the answer is no.