News that the Pacers traded Paul George to Oklahoma City rocked the sports world last night. Twitter erupted and 90% of NBA fans and sports writers felt that the Pacers lost this deal. Most people excepted the Pacers to at least get get one or two draft picks back for George in an effort to “rebuild”. But the Pacers are not an organization that actively “rebuilds”. Proof is in the fact that the Pacers have made the playoffs 22 out of the last 28 years. So instead of getting a mediocre player or two and a few late first round draft picks, the Pacers opted to send Paul George to the western conference and in return take 2 young players that were just lottery picks in previous years in Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
Click here to listen to Evan Morris of SB Nation and I chat about the Pacers future and what we thought they might get in return for Paul George.
Domantas Sabonis in his own right has room to grow his game with the Pacers. At just 20 years old, Sabonis started most of the season for the Thunder and averaged 10.6ppg and 6.4rpg per 36 minutes. Domantas is the son of former NBA and international star Arvydas Sabonis and is 6’10 lefty with tons of potential.
But make no mistake, Oladipo is the corner-piece to this trade. The Pacers bring back an exciting player and former Hoosier star which should help keep seats in Bankers Life Fieldhouse somewhat full while the Pacers look to build (dare I say-rebuild) for the future. Oladipo is one of the best young defensive guards in the league. He can guard on the ball, off the ball, and is a top 3 guard shot blocker.
Oladipo comes with an expensive contract and will be owed $84million over the next 4 years. This is the main reason that the Thunder opted to trade ‘Dipo, but because the Pacers roster is so young, they have plenty of cap space to take on this contract. In fact, prior to this deal I was wondering how the Pacers were even going to hit the salary floor.
Lets breakdown the important part of the trade. Oladipo just finished his 4th year in the NBA so I decided to compare the first 4 years of ‘Dipo and Paul George. They are certainly not the same player, but it is important to remember that Paul George was raw with talent in his first 4 years in the same way that Oladipo has been. Upon comparison, ‘Dipo’s stats are eerily similar to Paul George’s. In fact they both had the exact same FG% (.434) and steals per game (1.5) over their first 4 years in the NBA.
In addition, Oladpio has improved his field goal % and 3 point % every single year since entering the NBA. While his points per game did take a small drop last season, one should expect that from anybody joining alongside ball-heavy Westbrook. Expect Oladipo to increase his scoring average considerably next season.
While Oladipo may never fully develop to the level of player that Paul George is, he is certainly a player that should continue to develop and will fit in nicely with the Pacers. It is important to remember that this is not Paul George for Oladipo and Sabonis in a vacuum. There were many variables affecting this trade and given the current situation the Pacers got 2 recent lottery picks back for a player that is on a one year loan.