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NBA trade rumors: Pacers’ asking price for Paul George is steep

Indiana may want a lot in return for Paul George, but his imminent departure and stated desire to play in L.A. are likely to limit their return.

NBA: Playoffs-Indiana Pacers at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy reported that the Indiana Pacers are hoping to land a king’s ransom in return for their All-Star swingman Paul George. Per Murphy’s report:

“A league source said today that the Celtics are waiting to hear back from [Pacer’s GM Kevin] Pritchard, who as of draft night was asking for next year’s Nets' and Lakers' first-round picks, which are both under Celtics control. Pritchard also wants starting-caliber players included in the deal.”

That’s a lot to surrender for a player that would not be guaranteed to be on Boston’s roster beyond the upcoming season. George, who recently told the Pacers he won’t continue playing in Indiana upon completing this the final year of his contract, has stated publicly he only wants to play in Los Angeles after next year.

That is a complicating factor for sure, and it certainly drives George’s price down. Any team seeking to acquire him knows they may be doing so just as a rental. Forfeiting significant assets for a single year of play, even for a world-class talent like George, is a hefty price to pay, and while his suitors will adjust their offerings accordingly, it appears that the Pacers want more than fair value.

Asking for the moon and the stars may seem outlandish given the context, but the Pacers’ Kevin Pritchard is probably right to start high. He knows Celtics President of Basketball operations Danny Ainge will be ready to negotiate down anything that crosses his desk, and this case is no different. Still, it is somewhat of an odd move.

Indiana has essentially no leverage, knowing that George is leaving one way or another. They need to get something meaningful in return for him. The circumstances were different, but consider what the Clippers received for Chris Paul on his way out the door: a late first round, two solid vets, and a handful of young players. That may seem like a consolation prize for one of the best point guards in the league, but it was either that or nothing. Also, requesting so much from the Celtics may discourage other teams from putting together packages for George, and Boston’s interest in making a trade may be contingent on other factors.

The Celtics are soon to be in a dogged pursuit of free-agent star Gordon Hayward. Their hope, reportedly, is to sign him outright, and then pull off a trade to bring in George. If they fail to do so, their desire to make a deal may dissipate, leaving the Pacers with trading partners capable of providing far fewer pieces.

Indiana should be rooting for Hayward to land in Boston, simply because it means they can cull together a return from the Celtics’ ample pool of assets. It’s just not likely to be what they’re asking for now.

The Pacers may be able to land a quality player or two. Think Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and/or Marcus Smart. They may even nab one of the juicy picks they’re reportedly seeking, but two is too much. Danny Ainge and Kevin Pritchard both know that, and they both also know that George’s imminent departure alters the market drastically.

The Pacers can play hard ball all day long, but if it keeps them from putting together a deal for George, they’re in big trouble, and that is something of an ace up whomever they are bargaining with’s sleeve. The Celtics want George, but they don’t need him the way the Pacers need something in return for him. Danny Ainge has walked away from plenty of deals, and this case will be no different if he feels he is getting unfair value. Indiana is right to ask for a lot. They just need to lower their expectations about what they may actually receive.

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