Amid Rumors, Should Utah Jazz Pursue Paul George?

Jan 21, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) shoots the ball over Utah Jazz guard George Hill (3) during the first quarter at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 21, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) shoots the ball over Utah Jazz guard George Hill (3) during the first quarter at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports /

With recent rumors indicating that the Indiana Pacers are shopping Paul George, should the Utah Jazz consider making a move for the four-time All-Star?

There’s no questioning that it’s been a crazy 24 hours for Utah Jazz fans with all the trade deadline madness. From reported interest in Lou Williams, to that interest being denied after he was dealt to the Rockets, to the interest in the first Williams switching over to interest in another Williams – namely former Jazz All-Star Deron Williams – it’s been a crazy ride.

And that’s not even mentioning all the Derrick Favors news which has included cryptic tweets from both him and his fiancee.

Thank goodness the trade deadline is less than 24 hours away, because I’m not sure how much more I could take.

But if you think that Jazz fans are the only ones who have experienced some tumult over the past few hours, you’re horribly mistaken. Of course, the rumors surrounding multiple teams are undoubtedly putting several fans on pins and needles, but due to an onslaught of news today surrounding a certain player, perhaps no fan base suddenly became as anxious as that of the Indiana Pacers.

The reason being that, while there had been a few brief rumblings prior to today, this afternoon news broke that the Indiana Pacers were gauging the trade market for their All-Star forward Paul George.

If you want to talk about a scenario that would give fans some angst, this one certainly fits the bill. Rumors of trading away a team’s best and longest-tenured player who led them to back-to-back Conference Finals appearances is a sure way to put a team’s faithful on edge.

Yet, that’s exactly what Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reported the Indiana Pacers were considering doing.

In simple terms, the sticky situation surrounding Paul George is that reports have indicated that he wants to stay put in Indiana, but only if the Pacers have a true chance of contending for a championship. Given their blatant struggles so far this season, that seems highly improbable in their current state.

Therefore, if Indiana brass can’t put the right combination of players around George to make the Pacers a title contender, then he may very well seek greener pastures once his contract is up. Thus team president Larry Bird and Co. are faced with the challenging task of deciding whether they go hard to assemble such a team or simply trade Paul George now to avoid losing him for nothing once his contract expires at the end of the 2017-18 season.

To be perfectly honest and as several follow-up reports confirm, it seems highly unlikely that the Pacers will actually make a move on Paul George at this trade deadline, especially given that they have him under contract for one more season.

Thus it’s very possible that the Pacers are more than anything doing exactly what Wojnarowski suggested – gauging the market – and not looking to engage in any serious discussions for their star at the moment.

Nevertheless, what would trade season be without crazy speculation? So, suppose the Pacers do decide to look for a deal that can net them some valuable assets while sending Paul George to a winning squad, anyone know of a team that could get involved?

Well, I just so happen to know of one in particular that just about perfectly fits that ticket – our very own Utah Jazz.

Sure, some might say that the Jazz aren’t vying for title contention either and that jumping from a small-market Indiana team to a small-market Utah team may not be all that appealing to George making it risky to add him and his soon-to-expire contract. But if his statements about preferring to re-sign with Indiana are sincere, then there should be no reason why he wouldn’t be willing and happy to be with the Jazz if they give him the best chance of competing for a title.

And given Utah’s sudden rise to relevance this season and the impressive amount of talent and depth that would surround him, they could very well offer just that.

In a recent article from SLC Dunk linked in the tweet above, the topic of the Jazz looking to make a move for Paul George was explored and the deal that they designed looked as follows:

Utah would send Derrick Favors, Trey Lyles, Rodney Hood, Alec Burks, a 2017 first-round pick, a 2018 second-round pick and the 2018 OKC Thunder first-round pick to Indiana in exchange for Paul George and former Jazzman C.J. Miles.

While I wouldn’t say I’m exactly in love with the idea of giving up all four of those players (three of them, perhaps, but not all four) along with the slew of picks, nor with the idea of receiving C.J. Miles from the Pacers, it’s still an interesting suggestion.

More than anything, it shows that the Jazz have plenty of young, desirable trade pieces they could send to Indy to potentially convince them to part ways with George while still having enough on hand to build around budding center Myles Turner.

And while it’s certainly risky, making those kind of moves to add such a talented player is likely what it will take for the Jazz to be in the running to win it all.

From there, just imagine a Jazz lineup consisting of George Hill, Paul George, Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert. Utah would likely have to find some fix for the power forward position as Paul has been pretty adamant about not playing the stretch-four, but that’s a relatively small problem to worry about when adding a formidable two-way player and borderline superstar such as PG to the mix.

True, some may question how Paul George and Gordon Hayward would co-exist, but George is actually no stranger to the shooting guard position as he’s played there before in his career and could very well do it again with the Jazz.

Early in George’s career he played alongside former Pacer great Danny Granger who was a three, and though their time together was short-lived due to Granger’s constant injury struggles, there’s no reason why a similar combination couldn’t work with Hayward and George.

Of course, the big risk with adding George would be the question I alluded to before of whether or not he would be willing to stay once he became a free agent. However, if being on a winning team is truly his biggest focus, he may be hard-pressed to find a more realistic fit than Utah.

The Jazz have the financial flexibility to add him without totally dismantling their most important core set of players and are already a solid Western Conference threat with room to improve. Adding an All-Star like Paul George to their already impressive roster could very well do the trick to take them to the next level.

Not to mention, PG and Hayward seem to have a mutual respect and he and George Hill were very close as teammates with the Indiana Pacers, so it could very well end up being a situation he quite enjoyed.

Also, the Jazz have thrived by focusing more on the team as whole rather than relying on a couple of individuals and if George bought into that system, he may find himself relieved that he no longer has to shoulder such an immense load like he has with the Pacers in recent seasons. There’s no doubting that Utah has more weapons and more depth than Indiana, so in terms of current talent and his expected load, joining the Jazz would be an enormous plus.

So to answer my question posed in the headline – YES! The Jazz absolutely should at least look into what it would take to add Paul George. Even if Indy is only gauging the market, what would it hurt to see if a potential deal could be made there?

As was pointed out in the previous SLC Dunk article that I mentioned, the Jazz did just recently do business with Indiana this summer to acquire George Hill, so who’s to say the two organizations couldn’t come to an agreement yet again.

Nevertheless, while adding another star alongside Hayward and Gobert that would potentially boost the Jazz to elite status in the Western Conference is a nice thought, in an attempt to reel myself back to reality, it’s important to recall that as exhilarating as this scenario would be, it’s probably not going to happen.

The Pacers were likely just getting a feel for their options and especially considering that Paul George was in last night’s practice while other players across the league expected to be dealt have been held out, that’s probably a pretty good indication that he’s staying put.

Furthermore, the team that has been connected the most to Paul George has actually been the Los Angeles Lakers, who George has reportedly expressed interest in joining in free agency if the Pacers haven’t successfully built a team worthy of title contention around him by then.

It seems a little odd that he so badly wants to win a title but would be interested in joining the Lakers who are currently second to last in the Western Conference, but perhaps his faith in LA’s young guns, new president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and the team’s rising cap space are enough to convince him that there’s something there. Not to mention, he grew up near LA, so that certainly factors in as well.

So while the Jazz most certainly should inquire about Paul George and even should be willing to make a move for him if the Pacers become more serious about shipping off their All-Star forward, it unfortunately isn’t a move that is likely to happen, especially not by tomorrow’s deadline.

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To be quite honest, at this point I’m beginning to think that we may not see Utah make that monumental of a trade this year, if any at all. Nevertheless, it’s clear that the Jazz still need a little more of a boost at some point soon if they hope to become title contenders in the near future.

And while Utah may not find that boost by this deadline, with so much available cap space and the apparent willingness to deal some of their current core if need be, their time to add another star alongside Hayward and Gobert, be it Paul George or somebody else, could end up coming sooner than Jazz fans might think.

With so many positives going on for the Jazz right now and still so much opportunity for the future, perhaps by this summer or next year’s deadline, Utah could find themselves with a third star to put them solidly in the mix with the NBA’s uppermost elite teams.