Thunder Optimistic Paul George Will Return

The Thunder believe George will be back in OKC, but Magic Johnson may have something to say about that

After Hours with Amy Lawrence
June 25, 2018 - 10:45 am

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Paul George will soon become an unrestricted free agent, and many teams are already preparing their sales pitch for the 28-year-old five-time All-Star.

In the end, though, George’s decision will likely come down to two franchises.

“There are a couple of teams out there obviously that have money, but I think what everybody expects is this is going to be a decision between Oklahoma and Los Angeles, between the Thunder and the Lakers,” The Oklahoman Thunder reporter Brett Dawson said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “There’s optimism, I think, inside the organization that he’s going to come back. I don’t think that he’s necessarily going to sign a five-year extension, but maybe on a shorter-team deal, perhaps. But I think there is a sense that he’s going to be here. 

“Now until he meets with the Lakers, until he sits across a table from Magic Johnson and says no, anything can happen,” Dawson continued. “But I think there’s certainly optimism and a hope that he’s going to opt to come back here.”

The Thunder went 48-34 with George, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony last season but lost their first-round playoff series to the Jazz in six games. They played that series without Andre Roberson.

“When Andre Roberson was healthy, that changes their defense,” Dawson said. “It masks some of the things that maybe Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony in particular don't do very well defensively. The last 20 games that Roberson played before he had the left patellar injury that ended his season, they went 16-4. Their starting lineup, when they had a healthy starting lineup – which is those four guys and Steven Adams – was by net rating one of the best starting lineups in the NBA. So they had cause for optimism before the Roberson injury.”

Still, a team shouldn’t fall apart after losing a guy who averaged 5.0 points and 4.7 rebounds.

“The rest of the team wasn’t as well-constructed as it needed to be,” Dawson said. “Roberson is a great defender, but he’s not a great all-around player. His absence shouldn’t have impacted them in quite the way it did. And so, they need some other parts. They need some more pieces around those guys. They need better shooting. They need a little more defensive versatility – and that stuff will be hard to get because they’re going to be playing around with veteran minimums. They don’t have a whole lot of flexibility salary-wise.”