San Antonio Spurs: Can a Paul George Trade Work?

Mar 1, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) is defended by Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George (13) during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 1, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) is defended by Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George (13) during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports /

Indiana Pacers star Paul George has informed the organization that won’t return to the team after the 2018 NBA Season. This news has left many fans wondering: Can the San Antonio Spurs trade for Paul George?

San Antonio Spurs General Manager, R.C. Buford has masterfully orchestrated the team’s front office. With Gregg Popovich at his side, Buford has successfully drafted, traded and signed players with keen precision for over 25 years.

With that being said, the 2017 Offseason will be a challenge for the San Antonio organization. The concept of building a ‘superteam’ in San Antonio has become a reality amidst trade rumors and free agency prospects. Adding Paul George would certainly help the Spurs to compete with the league’s elite.

The Payroll

San Antonio’s payroll heading toward the 2017-2018 season will be difficult to navigate. With LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker earning nearly $56 million combined, there’s little room to spare. Danny Green will also earn $10 million next season with a player option for the following year.

Legend Manu Ginobili will be an unrestricted free agent and continues to ponder retirement at the age of 39. Ginobili’s contract accounted for $14 million of cap space filled in the 2017 season.

While Ginobili ponders retirement, bigman Pau Gasol continues to ponder his return to San Antonio as he retains a player option for the 2018 season. If accepted, Gasol’s contract could command $16 million from the Spurs’ payroll.

Jonathon Simmons, Dewayne Dedmon and Patty Mills will all enter unrestricted free agency this summer and will likely force Buford’s hand in contract negotiations. Each player has provided critical minutes for the team in their own ways and will be sorely missed should they leave.

With the current financial situation of the Spurs, there’s hardly room to sign big names this summer.

Depends on what they do this summer plus options for LA and Green next summer … but could have boatloads.

— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) June 16, 2017

This is precisely where a Paul George trade can make an impact.

The Trade: LaMarcus Aldridge and a future First Round Pick for Paul George

It’s safe to assume that the only player totally off-limits in this scenario is Kawhi Leonard, who emerged as the team’s superstar for the future this season.

With that being said, the Spurs are also an organization built on loyalty and development. They aren’t likely to commit to trade unless they’re sure of their decision.

For this reason, it’d be a difficult choice for the Spurs to trade Lamarcus Aldridge to Indiana, but not one without upside. While Aldridge has made strides for San Antonio over the past two seasons, he has also struggled at times.

Sending Aldridge to Indiana would allow the Spurs to compete at a higher level with the league’s elite teams. George, whose offensive tenaciousness is only matched by his defensive grit, is the perfect piece to compete with Golden State and Houston.

His ability to play off of others and his will to win would make him excel alongside Kawhi Leonard. This would also allow George to move back to his natural position of Shooting Guard.

Furthermore, this would allow San Antonio to trade Danny Green for direly needed cap space.

Indiana would gain a remarkable bigman whose isolation and post scoring would be a huge asset in the Eastern Conference. They’d also be able to receive a star in return for Paul George which will be difficult to find for Indiana.

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While Paul George’s one-year contract may scare Spurs fans, it also opens up opportunities heading toward the future.

The Impact

Not only would a tandem of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard be able to compete, but it would create one of the league’s most daunting matchup issues.

This would also create opportunity for Pau Gasol to flourish at his natural position of Power Forward. With newfound cap space created by a looming Danny Green trade, the Spurs could re-sign Dewayne Dedmon to protect the basket at an even greater capacity than Aldridge did.

George’s one-year deal would come with perks. If San Antonio was to convince George to return to San Antonio, they could do so using the Bird Rights attached to his contract from Indiana.

Should George leave, this would create massive cap space for the Spurs to attract the superstars of 2018’s free agency pool. This would come at the same time as Pau Gasol and Tony Parker’s contracts expire. Despite their skill, age would likely keep competing teams from luring the pair of free agents from San Antonio.  

The list of 2018 Free Agents includes LeBron James, DeMarcus Cousins, Russell Westbrook, DeAndre Jordan, Jabari Parker, and many more. While the main goal should be to retain Paul George, the Spurs may also be able to create the best of a bad situation should he decide to leave.

While it remains likely that Paul George will be moved before the end of the 2018 NBA season, there’s a lot to be determined in the coming weeks. With the NBA Draft approaching, the league will likely get a peek at what’s to come in the looming Free Agency.

Whether they make a trade or not, the Spurs remain one of the league’s elite teams behind their storied core and their budding stars.

The addition of Paul George would make for a great story and could open up a plethora of doors for the franchise, but it’s not completely necessary to their future.

Next: Spurs: 2017 NBA Mock Draft

As of now, Popovich and the crew will have their sights set on Thursday’s Draft and the new wave of youth in San Antonio.