Paul George could be heading to Los Angeles sooner than expected.
The Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Lakers have opened up discussions about a potential Paul George trade in the run-up to Thursday’s NBA draft, according to Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.
It came to light this week through multiple reports that George’s agent had informed the Pacers of George’s intentions to leave following the expiration of his contract in summer 2018. Indiana had reportedly been gauging the trade market and intended to move quickly. George is a native of Los Angeles and reportedly expressed his desire to play for the Lakers.
Stein reports the Clippers, Rockets, Wizards and Cavaliers have also had discussions with the Pacers about George.
Although the Lakers could conceivably wait a year and sign George as a free agent, it appears the team is being aggressive in its pursuit of the talented forward. L.A. holds the No. 2 and No. 28 picks in the first round of the draft. Indiana has incentive to trade him rather than lose him in free agency with no return.
However, ESPN reports that the Lakers will not trade the No. 2 pick or Brandon Ingram (last season’s No. 2 draft pick) as part of a George trade, knowing that they will have a good shot at signing him in a year.
George, 27, has averaged 18.1 points and 6.3 rebounds in his seven seasons in the league. He averaged 23.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game last season and has returned to form following the gruesome leg injury he sustained in 2014 playing with Team USA.
He missed out on making the All-NBA team, which meant the Pacers could not offer him a five-year, $207 million Designated Player Veteran Exception. They can offer a five-year, $177 million max contract.
George’s name was involved in trade rumors during February's trade deadline as well.