Jordan Heck, of Sporting News, has reported that the Houston Rockets are pursuing Indiana Pacers star Paul George via trade. This news comes in the same day that Houston was able to deal for Clippers superstar Chris Paul. It would appear that the Rockets are attempting to stockpile elite-level talent in an effort to compete with top-heavy contenders like the Warriors and Cavaliers.
The Boston Celtics have also been reported to be interested in adding George in an effort to build a super team of their own. In Houston, it would appear, they have a direct competitor. That’s not ideal in any sense. It gives the Pacers another suitor to use as leverage to drive George’s price up, and threatens the Celtics offseason timeline.
Boston is, reportedly, hoping to sign free agent Gordon Hayward before consummating a swap for George. That means requesting that Indiana hold off on pulling the trigger on a deal until they’ve had enough time to convince Hayward to join them and official sign a deal.
The Celtics have more than enough assets to entice the Pacers to wait things out, particularly compared to the Rockets, who expended most of their riches to acquire Paul. There are several layers of uncertainty in play in waiting for Boston though. If the Celtics fail to acquire Hayward, they’re significantly less likely to surrender truly meaningful picks or players for George, leaving the Pacers out in the cold.
If Houston can convince Indiana that a less appealing package, in the present moment, is worth eliminating any downside risk associated with Boston’s offseason plans going awry, then they may be able to land George with an inferior offer. The Rockets really aren’t working with much though, so the likelihood of that happening isn’t extremely high.
The Celtics still have more than a full week before the free agency moratorium ends, however, and can’t sign an official deal with Hayward until July 6, even if they come to terms with him prior to that date. That’s a long time for Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard to wait, and plenty of opportunity for the Rockets to come up with creative ways to make their offer more appealing.
Indiana needs to maximize its return for George. He’s been the face of their franchise for years, and the team’s biggest star since Reggie Miller (apologies to Danny Granger). Boston has the most to offer, which gives them the greatest leverage in these negotiations, but there are a number of other variables playing against them, and if the Rockets are throwing their hat in the ring for George, a very intelligent front office looking to exploit them. How the situation resolves itself should make for good theater. Until then, Celtics fans will be watching with bated breath.