Who was the ‘Best Power Forward in the league’ that Paul George said the Pacers refused to acquire?
Just a few weeks ago, I wrote an article talking about the upcoming 3 year anniversary of the Paul George to Oklahoma City trade.
Seven days prior to the exact date, June 30th, video surfaced today of an appearance George made on the basketball podcast, Knuckleheads with Quentin Richardson & Darius Miles where PG finally spilled the juice on his departure from the Pacers. You can watch here.
In summary, George said that during the summer of ’17,”The Best Power Forward” wanted to come to Indy to team up with him, George ask the front office on a phone call one evening if they could make that happen, and they said no due to them being a small market and not having the money to make that kind of power move. All in the meanwhile, George had told the organization that Indiana was where he wanted to be.
After George heard Indiana’s denial of even making an attempt at signing this mystery Power Forward, that’s when George said he’d had enough, called his agent, and said he wanted to get out of the Hoosier State.
This was a story that I have been intrigued by for the last few years. A lot of Indiana fans are still hostile towards the man that brought Indiana much success in the early 2010’s with the only thing standing between them and a possible Finals appearance being Lebron James.
George had said in prior interviews that his intentions were to never let the trade request leak because he wanted Indiana to get the most in return for him, which as we all now know did not happen.
So, if we take George’s word that the ‘best power forward’ in the league expressed his interest in coming to play for Indiana, who could he possibly be talking about?
Below are the list of players I believe best fit the description George gives us and which one is the most logical choice.
No way, right? That’s what I’ve said to myself the last two hours preparing for this article. The Pelicans were coming off of a 34-48 season, missing the playoffs for the second straight season. Meanwhile, AD had another monster season, posting career highs in points(28)and rebounds(11.8). He was entering the 2nd year of a 5 year, $127 million contract extension with New Orleans which was set to pay him nearly $24 million in the ’17-’18 campaign. What really kills any speculation of Davis being the culprit is the addition of DeMarcus Cousins to the Pels at the deadline in the ’16-’17 season. The two were tight and the following season were dominating opposing teams defenses inside until ‘Boogie’ tore his Achilles on a freak play mid-way through the year. To really kill the speculation though, there’s no way Indiana had the pieces on it’s roster to make such a power move for a top 5 player like that anyways. Any trade for Indiana would’ve had to start with 3rd year player Myles Turner, but after that, Indiana didn’t have nearly the pieces to even make the Pelicans entertain an offer.
Aldridge was always a player I liked, dating back to his time with Portland. His jump shot was deadly from the mid-range and was always capable of being a double-double guy, night in and night out. LMA in the summer of ’17 was entering the 3rd year of a 4 year, $84 million deal with San Antonio, which was set to pay him nearly $21.5 million the next season.
Aldridge though wasn’t particularly happy in San Antonio if you remember. The 2016-2017 season was one that saw the All-Star score 17.3 points per contest, the lowest for him in 7 seasons. Aldridge also averaged career lows in both points and rebounds during the Postseason, which prompted Aldridge to meet with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich where he discussed his displeasure with the team.
Although the wind might’ve blown over after that conversation and LMA’s production did pick back up(his points per jumped nearly 6 per night to 23.1), it still gives you case to wonder if the 7x All-Star had been in contact with PG about a possible link up.
Aldridge would have been 32 in the summer of ’17 and you have to wonder if Indiana would’ve been willing to part with a draft pick or two to go with a young player in order to acquire the big man. Once again though, after Myles Turner, which you figure Indy would’ve wanted to hang onto, Indiana did not have much to offer.
Not much needs said here. The only reason I even fathom Durant’s name here is because George said, ‘Best Power Forward’, and some could classify KD as a PF and if so, he’s easily the best at his position.
Other than that, Durant leaving Golden State after a single season to sign with Indiana, a place that can be brutally cold in the winter, doesn’t have nearly the attractions that California does, and on the court, doesn’t have nearly the pieces that the Dubs did, would be absolutely absurd.
The one big knock on Griffin’s career has been his health. He’d played a full season only 3 times in his first 8 years in the league.
Griffin was a Free Agent in the summer of ’17, fresh off of another stellar campaign for the Clips where he put up 21.6 points per to go with 8 rebounds, and 5 assists. The only issue, seeing the court. BG missed 21 games due to another surgery on his knee.
The Clippers had a phenomenal regular season, finishing 51-31, 4th in the West, but got ousted in the first round for the second straight year.
There were also issues with Griffin and Clippers Point Guard Chris Paul. Both men wanted that ‘LEADER’ tag which led to that relationship hitting a steady decline. Both were on the Free Agent market at the same time as well, so you’d have to imagine that one was looking to separate themselves from the other.
Paul ended up teaming up with James Harden in Houston while Griffin came back to LA on a 5 year, $171 million deal only to be traded mid-way through the season to Detroit.
Griffin, despite the concern with his knee was always considered one of the top power forwards in the league when he was on the court. Coming out of Oklahoma, Griffin was known for one thing, dunking. By his 8th season, we’d seen Blake slowly start to transition his game to the mid-range which, by the ’17-’18 season led him beyond the 3 point arc where he took nearly 6 per game.
Blake to Indiana makes the most sense out of the four players I’ve listed. He was an All-Star player at that point in his career and could’ve helped Indiana contribute in a big way. He added an inside presence that could also step out and shoot the 3 and could also grab double digit rebounds.
Could his addition have been enough though to satisfy the apple cart of Paul George? Could PG have signed an extension on the spot? Could Indiana have even afforded a piece like Blake Griffin?
We’ll never know.