The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Boston Celtics are interested in trading for Paul George, after signing Gordon Hayward in free agency:
For salary-cap purposes, Boston wants a Hayward commitment before it can finalize a trade for George and secure the most dynamic free-agent coup in franchise history, league sources said.
For Boston, here’s the hitch: While Indiana believes Boston can offer the best possible package, the Pacers may be unwilling to wait until the start of July free agency on Boston’s timetable and could turn toward making a deal elsewhere for George, league sources told The Vertical.
Boston has maneuvering to do with its roster, including the shedding of salaries to create space to position itself for this scenario. Boston has contingencies in place to make deals and start a possible Hayward-George scenario toward fruition, league sources told The Vertical.
The sequence of these events is critical, as the salary cap implication of trading for George would hinder the team’s ability to ink Hayward to a new deal. Here’s a great run-down by Brian Robb at CBS Boston.
Woj’s report adds some credibility to an offseason strategy that has largely been discussed in the abstract to date. The Celtics will need some cooperation from multiple parties to make their plans come to fruition. First and foremost, Hayward will have to choose Boston over other suitors, including his current team, the Jazz. Indiana must also be willing to hold off on a dealing George until the Celtics officially sign Hayward.
Boston has more young players and future draft picks than any team in the league, so presumably they could make waiting to trade George worth Indiana’s while. Convincing Hayward that the Celtics are the right team for him is another matter entirely, though Boston could conceivably follow through with their plan with another big-name free agent in his place.
Should the Celtics strike out with Hayward, they may look at Blake Griffin as an alternative. If neither Griffin nor Hayward are willing to sign, then the trade for becomes less palatable. The goal for adding George will be to take the team to the level of title contention, a reality that is unlikely to be realized without also landing a star-level free agent.
In recent weeks, George indicated that he has no intention to re-sign with the Pacers after this season and hopes to play in Los Angeles next year. The Celtics are reportedly growing more confident in their ability to convince him to agree to an extension, but they likely would not risk sacrificing the assets need to acquire him without one of Hayward or Griffin in the fold.