Cavs, Pacers explore deal centered on George

Sam Amico

CLEVELAND -- The Indiana Pacers are looking to move star forward Paul George prior to Thursday's NBA draft, and have been immersed in trade talks with the Cleveland Cavaliers, league sources told Amico Hoops late Sunday.

One source familiar with the talks said a deal could potentially involve multiple players from both sides.

George's agent informed the Pacers that George will opt of his contract at the end of the 2017-18 season and become an unrestricted free agent, according to a report from The Vertical.

The Cavs, meanwhile, have been exploring the trade market for power forward Channing Frye and shooting guard Iman Shumpert, sources said. But a deal for George would likely need to involve All-Star forward Kevin Love.

According to sources, the Pacers are looking to get a substantial player and picks for George.

One source described the Cavs' interest in George as "legit," but added that pulling off a deal could be "very complicated."

There is also the matter of the Boston Celtics, who seem prepared to offer some of their many first-round draft picks in a quest for George. The Celtics own the No. 1 overall pick this year -- although a reported swap with the Philadelphia 76ers is expected to move the Celtics' selection to third.

The Celtics also own multiple first-round picks in the 2018 and 2019 drafts.

George, 27, reportedly would prefer to sign with his hometown Los Angeles Lakers if he were to opt out after next season with the Pacers, The Vertical reported.

But with stars such as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving already on the roster, the Cavs may be willing to trade for George with no assurances -- banking on the idea that joining a ready-made contender would be enough to convince him to stay.

Like George, James is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season.

As an aside, Cavs general manager David Griffin's contract expires at the end of June. So while the Cavs attempt to conduct talks centered on George, owner Dan Gilbert and Griffin are trying to hammer out a new deal.

"It's going to be a hairy few days," one source predicted.

In the meantime, Griffin is approaching the job as business as usual, handling talks and other offseason activity in the same manner as always.

George averaged 23.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists this past season. The Pacers finished with the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference before getting swept by James and the Cavs in the first round of the playoffs.

Last week, George told reporters in Indianapolis, "I’m under contract as a Pacer. That’s all that needs to really be known. I’m here. I’m a Pacer. Again, what I’ve been dealing with is stories. You guys talking or teams talking. I’m a Pacer. There’s no way around that. This is my team, my group and this is where I’m at."

He also brushed aside any talk of potential recruitment from James.

"I don’t talk to LeBron at all," he said. "We don’t communicate. I look up to LeBron, obviously. He’s been a tremendous ambassador to this game. He’s been a very huge influence for me outside of the game, but we don’t communicate and figure out where one another’s going."

Pacers GM and director of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard is in his first offseason as the team's main basketball decision-maker, having replaced Larry Bird.