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NBA Indiana Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard

Pacers Paul George Is Still Being Shopped After The Draft

The Indiana Pacers Paul George didn’t get traded at the NBA Draft, but that doesn’t mean general manager Kevin Pritchard has taken his team’s All-Star off the market. After the “gut punch” from George’s agent, Paul George is still being shopped hard.

“At the end of the day Paul is a special player and he’s been good for this organization,” Pritchard said in his press conference after the draft. “We felt like in a few of the talks over the summer that he wanted to win and he wanted to win here, so it was a little bit of a gut punch for us.”

After the last couple of seasons ended in first round playoff exits and the team had to adjust to popular head coach Frank Vogel being let go a year ago, one can only assume George wasn’t convinced anything was about to change for the better in Indiana. He was ready to move on and it was the Pacers that would have to do the adjusting.

“We are adjusting right now,” Pritchard said. “At the end of the day we want to build a winning team and we want players that want to be here.”

While nothing got done with George at the draft that doesn’t mean nothing was going on. The Lakers were  rumored to have put a young player and a couple of late first round draft picks on the table. The Celtics were rumored to have put a package for George together and there were undoubtedly other serious attempts to pry George out of Indiana.

However, Pritchard didn’t think he was getting enough for a franchise player on an expiring deal who had made it known the Lakers were his preferred destination in free agency next summer. Maybe his expectations were a little high?

“It was a gut punch for me,” Pritchard reiterated. “But at the end of the day, I think you got to do this, you got to get past mad. He has his own perspective of the situation and I try to see that through his eyes. I can be empathetic because he wants to go back home or potentially go back home.”

If Pritchard can acknowledge George’s desires for a return to L.A. next season in a press conference, they aren’t rumors. They are facts and George’s trade value will reflect that no matter how many deals the Pacers look at.

“We are going to look at a lot of deals,” Pritchard said. “Doesn’t mean one won’t get done in the short term, but we are not going to take any bad deals either.

“Right now there is enough on the board that we feel good about that we could pull the trigger at any time.”

Surely Pritchard realizes the window on some of those deals will start closing in less than a week as teams start pursuing other opportunities in free agency. From pursuing their own free agents to trying to convince other teams free agents to switch organizations, money will start to be committed, open roster spots will disappear, commitments will be made that can’t be unmade this summer. It is completely reasonable to expect that Pritchard will have seen his best offer within days of free agency opening up.

“We could go a lot of different places,” Pritchard said. “We could go a little younger and start developing, but there were offers where good players were coming back that were veterans and we are not afraid to do that.

“We want to build a winning team and sometimes you got to look a little short term and sometimes you look long term.”

If this was the sales pitch to George, it’s no wonder he said get me outta here. Pick a direction and get negotiating before the deal you really wanted isn’t there anymore.

If you are going to go shopping, know what you want to buy or you could end up coming home with something you neither need nor want.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry and Chicago Bulls Jimmy Butler

Could Jimmy Butler Push Raptors GM Ujiri Into Action?

It’s already been a busy and interesting trade market ahead of the NBA Draft on Thursday and apparently the Bulls Jimmy Butler is out there stirring the pot by trying to convince Raptors free agent Kyle Lowry to come and join him in Chicago instead of Butler trying to find another All-Star to play with in a different city. This could be just the impetuous needed to stir Raptors president Masai Ujiri into action at the draft.

Back in Toronto Ujiri is pretty confident his unrestricted free agent point guard will re-up with the Raptors on July 1st and he should be. Lowry has been hanging around the team since the season ended and Ujiri talked to him at their practice facility this week.

However, even Ujiri admits it’s his job to convince Lowry to want to re-sign with the Raptors – not that it should all that hard to convince Lowry that playing with his best friend DeMar DeRozan for the next four years is the right decision.

But don’t discount the fear even the remote possibility of Lowry changing his mind could cause. Sure Ujiri says he’s ready for five different scenarios this summer, but the ones that don’t include Lowry aren’t the ones he wants to entertain.

The duo of Lowry and DeRozan led the Raptors to an impressive 56 win season in 2015-16 and they were 28-13 at the halfway point last year when they went into a slide exasperated by a 3-5 stretch where DeRozan only played one game (that he shouldn’t have) book-ended with 0-3 and 1-3 marks. Then Lowry went down after the All-Star break until April 5th and only the additions of P.J. Tucker and Serge Ibaka kept the regular season win total over 50.

Ujiri knows the Raptors are a 50-plus win team with Lowry and DeRozan on it and they should be able to beat the franchise win record set in 2015-16 if he can hang onto Ibaka and Tucker – and there’s the crux.

If Lowry jumps ship, Ibaka and Tucker become doubtful and those scenarios that resemble a rebuild become very possible. It could be as diverse as going for 60 wins versus tanking for the Draft Lottery.

So how does Ujiri “guarantee” Lowry has no better landing spot than the one he is inclined to go for anyway. The answer seems simple. Upgrade the roster beyond just bringing back Ibaka and Tucker and there is an obvious trade target.

Almost every NBA analyst out there (and it’s a long list) is now convinced the Pacers are trying to move Paul George and his expiring contract by the draft because he’ll walk away for nothing next summer.

NBA Indiana Pacers Paul George

Indiana is doing their best under difficult circumstances to create a market and will take the best deal available from wherever it comes and it’s assumed they covet young players, draft picks and no long term commitments.

Potentially, the Raptors could fill those requirements and they probably don’t have to worry about anyone outbidding them with a Lottery pick. All Ujiri has to do is make a couple of those seven players still on their rookie deals he seems to love available and put his 2017 draft pick on the table.

For what could be a one season rental, giving up young talent and a pick is a big haul for the Pacers and a steep price for any team, but if it guarantees the Raptors can keep their All-Star point guard from jumping ship, they should just live with it.

Ujiri doesn’t really need to keep all seven guys he still has on their rookie deals plus add another rookie for next season – Does he?

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

Indiana Pacers Paul George

Do Pacers Want Paul George Traded By Draft Night?

Get ready for an exciting ride between now and the NBA Draft. The Indiana Pacers aren’t fooling around any longer. They want Paul George traded, the sooner, the better.

The opening salvo seems straightforward enough. A starter and two first round draft picks, but Indy will likely even have to compromise on this to get a deal done.

Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard has the right idea though. Create a market, a (potentially false) sense of urgency, an arbitrary but identifiable deadline and see who steps up with the best offer. The trade value of Paul George will never be higher than now and the closer we get to the start of the season and eventually the trade deadline, the less Pritchard can expect to get.

There is obviously no certainty a deal can get done in a few days, but this is the best way to maximize value.

The process has just begun in earnest and the Pacers will reach out to every team they believe has any interest in the hopes of finding the best deal. This is going to be a wild rumor filled ride.


 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry DeMar DeRozan Pacers Paul George Raptors PJ Tucker and Serge Ibaka

Pacers Star Paul George Puts Himself In Play

Pacers star Paul George has been rumored to be wanting out of Indiana for some time now, but with no action forthcoming from general manager Kevin Pritchard, he decided to put himself in play. He made sure “The Reliable Source” for NBA rumors Adrian Wojnarowski knew he wanted out of town and couldn’t be talked into re-signing next summer.

Make no mistake, the “rumor” and timing was deliberate. By making it seem likely he’ll only be a rental until next season when he can bolt to L.A. as a free agent, teams won’t give away the farm to get him and rebuilding teams won’t even look at the possibility. Plus, less than a week ahead of the NBA draft, good teams with a chance to contend for the conference finals might be willing to part with a prospect and a late first round draft pick and under the circumstances, that’s more than generous.

Pritchard might be hoping the Lakers would ante up some of that young talent, but thanks to Wojnarowski, they’d look like idiots for giving away anything of value for a player they can sign for nothing in a year.

If anyone thinks Boston is going to give up the talent they fleeced the Nets for to take a risk on a rental, they should think again.

The Clippers should be interested in taking a run at acquiring George as it would help them re-sign their own free agents Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and remain relevant in the West. Not having a first or second round draft pick this year doesn’t help their chances though.

The Cavaliers may be temporarily in panic mode (that should pass), but the reality is, unless the Pacers are in love with Kevin Love, they’ll have trouble coming up with a package that Indiana would be interested in.

The Raptors should be the most motivated to take the risk and they do have some young prospects and a first round draft pick. President Masai Ujiri hates giving away any of his young talent, but for a chance at George, it should be possible to convince him to relinquish something Pritchard believes has value in a rebuild.

If Ujiri can re-sign his own free agents (and he believes he can), the Raptors could have a starting lineup of:

Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Paul George, P.J. Tucker, and Serge Ibaka.

That just might be good enough to win Toronto first place in the East during the regular season and let the chips fall where they may in the playoffs.

At the very least George has significantly upped the potential for excitement at this year’s draft.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Indiana Pacers Paul George

Paul George Rumors May Give Raptors A Real Shot

If you love NBA rumors, with the Cleveland Cavaliers are the cusp of being swept out of the NBA Finals, things are about to get very interesting. First, LeBron James speculation will become rampant, but soon after, where and how the next super team gets created will dominate the “news/rumor cycle.” But if you are sitting in Toronto, the speculation should focus on the possibility of the Indiana Pacers Paul George joining the Raptors.

Last summer Raptors president Masai Ujiri made a hard push to acquire Serge Ibaka, but the Magic made a ridiculous bid to rent the big forward for the season and Ujiri got his man at his price at the trade deadline out of the ashes.

This year the Pacers face the reality George could walk away for nothing next summer and there is nothing they can do to recreate the 56-win team of four years ago that had just reached the Eastern Conference Finals for the second year in a row. It was an obviously frustrated George who has been knocked out of the first round in each of the past two seasons.

George can’t be very happy with the Pacers owner’s ideas about how to run a team as reported by IndyStar’s Matthew VanTryon,

“Believe me, our aim is to be competitive,” Pacers owner Herb Simon told IndyStar two weeks ago. “We don’t like to be paying the luxury tax, but most teams try to avoid that.”

Well Herb, you won’t be very competitive with the Cavaliers or the Warriors if you don’t like paying the luxury tax and George knows that.

But as The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor accurately states, it isn’t going to be easy to trade George for max value either.

The vibe I’ve gotten from talking to NBA executives and agents over the past few weeks is that teams aren’t willing to sell the farm for George because of the possibility that he’ll sign with the Lakers is so strong.

However,

The Lakers are in shambles now. They’re a bad team, period. They’ve won less than 28 percent of their games (91 out of 328) over the past four seasons.

It’s very unlikely another team that’s not quite ready for prime time overbids for George this summer with the Ibaka fiasco fresh in GMs minds. That move and other risks cost Rob Hennigan his job. Indiana will be hard pressed to demand a boatload of talent and picks for the privilege of renting George this season.

Also, despite the annual (hoped for) belief that superstars will beat a path to the Staples Center, it’s almost funny to think players like James and George will run to L.A. to save the storied Lakers a year from now. These days superstars don’t save your franchise, they elevate it to NBA Finals contention or look elsewhere.

In the NBA East, the obvious landing spots that George could believe give him a real chance at making the NBA Finals are in Boston and Toronto.

Back in Toronto, Ujiri only “wins” the Ibaka trade if he can re-sign him. Fortunately, it’s been widely rumored that only reason Ujiri was able to trade for him in the first place was Ibaka had made it known the only team he’d re-sign with was the Raptors.

Ujiri has made it clear the Raptors plans are to re-sign Kyle Lowry, P.J. Tucker and Ibaka. If the Raptors are (finally) sincere in their willingness to pay Luxury Tax in order to compete for a championship, they’ll have a line-up and a payroll that will be attractive to George beyond next season.

Toronto has been a 50+ win team in each of the past two seasons and only the James-led Cavaliers have stood in their way of getting out of the East. Another real chance to beat James would be huge to George.

The obvious alternative acceptable landing spot is a Celtics team that finished first in the Conference last year.

If Danny Ainge is willing to part with one of those coveted Brooklyn Nets picks and some young talent, Pritchard won’t be able to say yes fast enough, however, those picks could set the Celtics up for the next decade and he doesn’t have to risk anything. It’s hard to see Ainge giving up Jaylen Brown, this year’s first overall draft pick or next year’s Nets pick and no one should blame him. As a potential one-year rental, George shouldn’t be able to command anything nearly that good.

The Raptors are at significant disadvantage to Boston in terms of talent available to trade, however, they may be willing to offer more.

First, George and the Raptors DeMar DeRozan are friends (although, DeRozan seems to be friends with most of the league) and second, there’s the deleted tweet George supposedly sent out a few years ago suggesting he wanted to play with DeRozan.

Ujiri should be willing to build a package around Jonas Valanciunas and at the start of the season, consider adding Norman Powell and Delon Wright or Cory Joseph. It’s not close to being an even trade, but the closer new President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard gets to the trade deadline, the worse the offers are going to get.

Many teams get in their own way when it becomes obvious their star player is going to leave them after the season. Pritchard isn’t going to be able to recreate the 2013-14 Pacers next season and he’s more likely to lose key free agents this summer than to sign better ones, but if he holds onto hope too long, a possible re-load will become an extended re-build.

Pritchard’s best chance to get value for George is to have the Celtics and the Raptors bid against each other for his services sooner rather than later.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
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