Knicks could target All-Star forward in blockbuster trade this offseason

Paul George, Knicks
Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

For the second offseason in a row, the New York Knicks could soon enter the Paul George sweepstakes. The star forward of the Los Angeles Clippers is currently in the midst of awkward contract negotiations with his current team. To this point, the Clippers have refused to offer George the max contract he seeks, meaning he could soon force his way out.

Paul George could take an unusual approach to end up with the team of his choosing

Apr 9, 2024; Phoenix, Arizona, USA;  (New York Knicks) LA Clippers forward Paul George (13) handles the ball against Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant (35) during the first quarter at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

George has a $48.4 million player option for next season. Instead of opting out and seeking a lucrative free agency contract elsewhere, George could take an unorthodox approach to eventually end up where he wants to be.

On Friday’s edition of ESPN’s Get Up (h/t CBS Sports), NBA Insider Brian Windhorst discussed the possibility of George opting into his player option and seeking a trade:

“If Paul George changes teams, it’s very likely going to be a situation where he opts into his contract and requests a trade,” said Windhorst.

Star players have taken this approach before, prominent examples include James Harden last season, and Chris Paul in 2017. This strategy is often used by players who wish to land with a team that lacks the necessary cap space to sign them outright in free agency.

Rival 76ers have slowed down their aggression for 34-year-old George

Apr 12, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA;  Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George (13) warms up prior to the NBA game against the Utah Jazz at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers, who were early frontrunners for George’s services have since backed off their enthusiasm for the nine-time All-Star. With one rival team out of the frame now, the Knicks could swoop in and strike a deal for the 34-year-old.

The Knicks showed interest in George last offseason as well

New York previously showed interest in George last summer, initiating talks with the Clippers on a potential blockbuster, but, similar to the 76ers this offseason, eventually tempered their interest in George, largely due to his impending contract situation, and concerns with the All-Star forward’s health. George played in 74 games this past season, the first time since 2019 with Oklahoma City that he appeared in more than 56 games in a season.

George could raise the Knicks’ ceiling even further alongside Jalen Brunson and OG Anunoby

Nov 6, 2023; New York, New York, USA;  New York Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson (11) drives the ball towards the basket against Los Angeles Clipper forward Paul George (13) during the first quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks’ main priority this offseason remains re-signing OG Anunoby. However, even if Anunoby returns, George could still make sense for the Knicks. He would provide the team with another high-level two-way wing, and also act as a secondary ball handler and scorer to Jalen Brunson.

Last season, George was named an All-Star and averaged 22.6 points per game while boasting impressive shooting splits of 47% FG/41% 3P/90% FT. New York saw its depth tested severely during the postseason, where injuries to several key players ultimately derailed any hopes of reaching the NBA Finals, adding a player of George’s caliber would enhance the team’s ceiling even further.

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