Three Paul George Trade Destinations

Paul George
Paul George / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

It feels like it was only yesterday that the Los Angeles Clippers moved heaven and earth to acquire Paul George and paired him with Kawhi Leonard to create the most formidable superstar wing duo in the NBA. But in reality that was six years ago, and the Clippers have nothing to show for it all. Injuries have prevented both George and Leonard from making all but one healthy playoff run together; that came in the bubble and they blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the second round. Otherwise it's been six seasons of wasted potential.

Now it may all be coming to an end. Marc Stein reported on his Substack that the Clippers are gauging George's trade value and may actually trade him.

Later in the article Stein cites the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers as potential trade partners. From that it kind of sounds like Los Angeles is testing the waters to see if they couldn't jump into the top-four and grab one of the draft's elite prospects. If that is the case, and they don't find any interest, George will probably stay put. The team still owes its next three first-round picks to the Oklahoma City Thunder so there's no reason to rebuild yet.

George could be a path to retooling, though. He got hurt before the playoffs again and it's probably safe to assume his availability is permanently in question going forward, but he also averaged 23 points per game with great shooting splits and defense and remains one of the game's elite two-way wings. Even if he is a superstar no more.

Here are a few possible trade destinations for PG-13 if the Clippers decide to go down that path.

Houston Rockets

One of the two aforementioned teams that might be interested, the Rockets make a lot of sense for George through the lens that they want to be competitive next year. They were connected to James Harden for months and the noise coming out of Houston still indicates they're interested in bringing in veteran talent to raise the floor of the team. Even if their crop of rookies are still far, far away from even playoff contender status. There's also familiarity here after Houston traded Eric Gordon to Los Angeles at the trade deadline this past year.

The Rockets also make sense for George because they have a ton of cap space right now and won't have to salary match his $45 million salary. If the No. 4 pick is involved then the Rockets would only have to give that up along with one or two of their lesser young players like Kevin Porter Jr. or JaeSean Tate. If the fourth pick is not involved then things get interesting. Would Houston give up on Jabari Smith Jr. or Jalen Green this early? Do the Clippers want Alpern Segun's delightful weirdness? Without the need to cobble together $45 million the possibilities are wide-ranging, but not many make sense for the Clippers if they still want to win.

Portland Trail Blazers

Of course the Blazers are included in this rumor mill. It feels like they've been after George for years, and in theory it makes perfect sense. The ideal running mate for Damian Lillard has always been a sharpshooting wing who can take on the difficult defensive assignments and run the offense when needed. As we endure another offseason of Lillard insisting he doesn't want to be traded, leading the Blazers to go after extremely unrealistic trade targets, it's only natural George is brought up.

But unless Portland is willing to put the No. 3 pick on the table a deal feels unlikely. They can match George's contract with Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic but have declared Shaedon Sharpe untouchable and have no other attractive trade assets. It would be odd if the Clippers wanted to swap George for Simons, an electric scorer who doubles as a defensive turnstile, without any other assets. But on the other hand giving up the No. 3 pick along with Simons feels like an overpay for a 33-year-old oft-injured wing. Hard to see any middle ground there, but perhaps they could find it.

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets are another team locked into competitiveness in the near future by virtue of failed superstar trades and as such make for an intriguing partner. They've got a good bunch of middle-sized contracts that could be used to make the financials work, including a Cam Johnson sign-and-trade if necessary. While they don't have a high draft pick to offer they do have two right in the middle of the first round one after the other, which makes one expendable, and Los Angeles does not have a pick in this draft. George isn't a long-term answer in Brooklyn but as a running mate to Mikal Bridges for the time being he'd be perfect.

Bridges is obviously off the table. He is the key to the Nets' hopes to not suck for the next few years. But Nic Claxton might be if George is the return. He's a borderline DPOY and All-Defense candidate who just turned 24 years-old. If he got thrown in, though, then the Nets would probably want Ivica Zubac to replace him. So the trade would look something like George and Zubac for Claxton, Ben Simmons, and Dorian Finney-Smith. Maybe with a draft pick thrown in there to convince LA to take Simmons' contract instead of a Johnson S&T. A pretty significant shake-up on both ends but one that could make everybody happy in the short-term.