The Pacers Tried to Destroy the NBA
The trade that would have turned the league into the darkest timeline
When Kevin Durant joined the Warriors in July of 2016, he decided how the season would end in June of 2017. As fun as it was to watch other teams try, no one sensible believed that the Golden State Warriors—a team starting four all-stars (two of them possible first ballot Hall of Famers)—would lose the NBA Finals. The move transformed the NBA and has resulted in the dizzying offseason we’re currently living in. all-stars are teaming up where they can, and teams with stars who no longer have a place in their future trajectories are dumping their expensive contracts, waiting out the eventual end of the Warriors-Cavs arms race.
One of those teams looking to kick back until the landscape changes is the Pacers. They finally decided that they’d held superstar forward Paul George. They were ready to see what they could get for him before his contract run out in 2018 and inevitably ends up in a Lakers jersey. What will make you claw your eyes out isn’t what the Pacers hoped for, it’s who they hoped to deal him to: the Golden State Warriors. The Pacers offered Paul George to the freakin’ Golden State Warriors last month.
Paul George on the Golden State Warriors would be like adding Storm to The Incredibles. Just when you think you’ve got an unstoppable bunch, in walks yet another person who can do it all, and then some. The Pacers wanted Klay Thompson in exchange, according to ESPN rumor king Adrian Wojnarowski. Sure, that trade would’ve broken up the beloved Splash Brothers and jettisoned the best catch-and-shoot artist in the NBA to a place that will be little more than a wasteland until LeBron James retires or heads west. But it would’ve allowed Golden State to replace Thompson with arguably the best player not named LeBron James or Kevin Durant at the small forward position. Another 6’9”-or-taller sharpshooter considered one of the best wing defenders in the game. Another guy that can go out and get you 40 points in a playoff game. Another guy that can jump out of the gym running the wing with ball-pushers Curry and Draymond Green. Another perennial all-star and Olympian.
You think the NBA isn’t fair now? Think about what the Warriors starting lineup could’ve been. What the hell was anybody going to do with Curry-George-Durant-Draymond? Don’t even think about arguing that the Cavs have three all-stars of their own. If you took James’ supporting players, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, and put them on that Golden State team, they’d probably both be riding the bench. Luckily for fans of the other 29 NBA teams, the Warriors opted to hang on to Thompson. And rather than send Paul George to the Cavs, the Pacers at least kept the season interesting by pairing him with Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City.
Fearful basketball analysts don’t think NBA Commissioner Adam Silver would’ve allowed the Warriors trade to go through to begin with. George himself agrees. Some recall the nixed 2012 trade that would’ve given Kobe Bryant’s Lakers Chris Paul, the floor general they desperately needed as Bryant chased that sixth ring. But that was before meaningless offseason exhibitions began drawing sold-out crowds in Vegas and before Kevin Durant ditched a team that was one game away from the finals to join a team that would only lose one game in the finals. While this proposed trade would’ve made the Warriors that much more of a spectacle, it would’ve done little to help the competitive nature of the league—a competitive nature that’s already, for the most part, in the toilet.
In the super team era, there’s no trade that’s considered overkill. But can you blame teams? Chris Paul, James Harden and Carmelo Anthony will probably be in the same starting five at some point this season, and they might only be the third or fourth best team in the Western Conference. Good grief.