Paul George – a proven star, elite two-way player and a son to the City of Angels. Exactly the type of player the Lakers have been so desperately searching for to carry the torch from the legendary Black Mamba. Despite this seemingly match made in heaven, Paul George isn’t their savior.
Paul George is 27 years old right now. With his birthday on May 2, he’ll be 28 years old when he becomes a Laker. It would be crazy to say that 28 isn’t young. But when compared to Brandon Ingram who’s 19, D’Angelo Russell who’s 21, Julius Randle who’s 22 and whichever teenager the Lakers select with their second overall pick in this year’s draft, PG13 is an old man.
That being said, PG13 may not even be available by the time summer of 2018 rolls around. We know the Cavs will be looking to upgrade their roster to have another shot at taking down the defending champ Warriors. LeBron and Kyrie are virtually untouchable. That leaves Kevin Love as the Cavs’ most valuable trade piece. The Pacers’ front office and the rest of the NBA knows that PG13 will most likely bolt to Hollywood if he’s not traded by next season. This diminishes PG13’s trade value leading to the Pacers being much more open to considering lower offers for their franchise player. If the Cavs are able to swap Love for PG13, it’d be hard to imagine PG13 not seriously considering resigning with the Cavs. Him and Kyrie would be a formidable duo for years even if LeBron decides to take his talents elsewhere again once he’s eligible to be a free agent in 2018.
With this threat of the Cavs and a select number of other teams looking to trade for George this year and convince him to resign with them, the Lakers shouldn’t join the party. Trading for George now would mean giving up one of the Lakers’ young assets, most likely either D’Angelo Russell or the second pick in this year’s draft.
Even if the Lakers don’t trade for George and instead sign him in free agency, a lineup featuring PG13, Ingram, Randle, Russell and the second pick still isn’t enough to compete for a title this upcoming season or the following next few seasons. Let’s face it, the Warriors will be the Western Conference’s top dog for the next five to six years unless Klay Thompson gets tired of being the fourth wheel and journeys off on his own with a different team.
In a recent Bleacher Report article, titled “Projecting Every NBA Team’s Win-Loss Record for Next 5 Seasons,” the article talks about how, “Durant will only be in his age-33 season for 2021-22, and he has a well-rounded game that should age well. Ditto for Curry’s incredible shooting prowess, and the point guard will also be playing out his age-33 campaign at the end of this five-year stretch. Thompson (31 in 2021-22) and Green (also 31) are even younger, and there’s no telling what a draft-day gem like Patrick McCaw could turn into.”
The Lakers would be better off keeping their young nucleus together and waiting out this Warriors dynasty (similar to what the Celtics have done in the East with the Cavs). Paul George is on a different timetable than the rest of the Lakers young core. By the time the Lakers young core hits their respective primes in five to seven years, George will be in his mid-30s and won’t be considered a top option anymore.
Instead, the Lakers should draft Josh Jackson to develop him as the forward of the future. Sports Illustrated’s Andrew Sharp called Kansas’ Josh Jackson, “a new-age [Andre] Iguodala who can play every game at 120 mph.”
Imagine a starting lineup of Russell (PG), Clarkson (SG), Jackson (SF), Ingram (PF) and Zubac (C) in five to seven years. And by that point, the Lakers will have a solid team to attract marquee free agents. Sure, this is betting on the development of the Lakers young core, but it gives the Lakers a better chance to win a championship rather than trade or sign for PG13 and try to knock off the Warriors.