The Lakers made a big splash in the summer of 2018 by signing Lebron James. Prior to acquiring the 4 time league MVP, they also pursued Paul George. George decided to re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder rather than teaming up with Lebron on the Lakers. What if George didn’t stay with the Thunder. How would the league have been affected?
What if Paul George signed with the Lakers during the 2018 offseason?
If Paul George signed with the Lakers in 2018, they would have been title contenders. Any team that could pair a top 10 player in the league with Lebron would be dominant. During the 2018-2019 season, Anthony Davis requested to be traded from the Pelicans and the Lakers immediately got linked to the Pelicans star. Initially, the Lakers didn’t land Davis until the off-season. However, in this scenario, with Paul George’s on the team, the Lakers would have been more willing to trade their young players and draft picks for Anthony Davis because they would have been much closer to winning a title. With Lebron, Anthony Davis and Paul George, the Lakers would have won the 2019 NBA championship.
Anthony Davis hypothetically being traded before the 2019 off-season would have also affected the Pelicans. Davis was on a minutes restriction for the Pelicans after his trade request. The Pelicans would have had Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart rather than Anthony Davis in limited action for the conclusion of the 2018-2019 season, which would have given the team a better record. Because of that, their odds to get the #1 overall pick in the draft lottery would have dropped. With lower odds to get the first overall pick, Zion Williamson would likely not have been a Pelican. If Paul George signed with the Lakers in 2018, Zion Williamson would likely be on a different team now.
Paul Georges’ 2018 off-season decision also impacted the two teams that played in the 2019 finals, the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors. As we know, Klay Thompson tore his ACL in game 6 of the finals. However, in this scenario, this never would have happened because the Lakers would have been representing the Western Conference in the finals with Lebron James, Anthony Davis and Paul George. With a healthy Klay Thompson, the Warriors would be amongst the Western Conference contenders this season.
As for the Raptors, Kawhi Leonard would still be in Toronto if Paul George signed with the Lakers in 2018. The two teams that pursued Kawhi the heaviest in this year’s free agency were the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers. With Lebron James, Anthony Davis and Paul George on board, the Lakers would not have had room for Kawhi. Also, Kawhi made it clear that he wouldn’t sign with the Clippers if they didn’t acquire another star player. The Clippers would have been unable to acquire Paul George with him on the Lakers, meaning that Kawhi would have opted to stay with the team that he had just gotten to the NBA finals with.
Paul George’s 2018 free agency decision to stay in Oklahoma City rather than sign with the Lakers impacted the landscape of the NBA. It is crazy to think that singular decisions can have a huge domino effect on the rest of the league.
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