Despite their big three of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George, the Oklahoma City Thunder went crashing out of the playoffs this season after suffering a 4-2 first-round series defeat to the Utah Jazz after six games.
The early postseason exit now raises questions over George's future with the Thunder since he will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and could leave the team if he wishes to do so, with many still speculating the likely destination could be the Los Angeles Lakers.
However, there are still many reports stating that PG13 could end up staying with the Thunder this offseason with him leaning more towards that outcome. In his first season with the Thunder, he averaged 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.3 assists in the regular season, and 24.7 points, six rebounds, and 2.7 assists during the playoffs.
ESPN’s Ryen Russillo said during his radio show this week that his source close to the team believes George leaving the Thunder is all but a done deal despite the other reports stating that he's leaning towards staying at the franchise.
Russillo said according to the Slam: “Today is the first time I’ve heard from anybody that I trust that George is gone.”
Russillo: “I don’t know where. It’s a ‘He’s gone’ deal.”
I heard (ESPN reporter) Royce Young say George thinks he’s leaning toward staying. George made it seem in the press conference after Game 6 that he genuinely was torn and maybe even wanted to stay…
Russillo: “I’m skeptical of sharing it […] because all of us watching (the press conference) were like, ‘Why would you even come back to this thing?’
“And I was like, Where is he going then? And (the source) was like, ‘All we know is that he’s gone.’ […] I know what Royce Young said, and I saw that coverage of it. Royce is fantastic and he would know better than I because he’s there.
“But Paul George also is somebody who knows what to say. But I wouldn’t trust anything he says.”
The two teams that are the favourites to have George on their roster by the start of next season are the Thunder and the Lakers. It would be a huge blow for Oklahoma City if he was to go as, despite the playoff disappointment, he has been their second-best player behind Westbrook this season.
If the Thunder has any ambition of closing the gap on the likes of the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets, they have to hold onto their best players, something which they have struggled to do in the past ever since their NBA Finals appearance in 2012.
The likes of Kevin Durant and James Harden have left the team over the years to the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets respectively and have gone on to achieve better things since leaving the team, with Durant winning 2017 NBA title and Harden being a strong favourite to win this year’s MVP award.
George might not be on the same level as those two guys mentioned above, but with so many teams this summer with the resources to make him their guy, the sky is the limit for him. A five-time All-Star, he’s regarded as one of the best forwards in the league today. All it could take is the right environment for him to reach his true potential.
We’ve seen it happen to Durant and Harden, and now it could happen to George if the Thunder doesn’t give him the right offer this offseason. However, if you believe some reports about PG13, his mind might already be made up.
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