While there were a few rumors linking Paul George to the Lakers earlier this offseason, that always seemed to be wishful thinking on the part of L.A. fans, rather than a realistic scenario. Even if he were to hit the open market next summer, George would be a restricted free agent, meaning the Pacers could match any offer sheet he signs. And with Danny Granger's big contract set to come off the books in 2014, there's no reason why Indiana wouldn't have matched any offer for George.
However, it looks like it won't even come to that. George recently indicated that he plans to ink a new long-term extension with the Pacers before the season begins. The two sides are still negotiating, but they appear on track to get something done before the Halloween deadline.
The question now becomes what sort of deal George will sign. The rising star was named the league's Most Improved Player this past spring, and at age 23, there's still plenty of room for further growth. I'd be a little surprised if he ever won an MVP award, but when we posed that question in a June poll, over 38% of the respondents said they believe he'll earn that honor at some point — those results at least show that it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility.
In other words, in a league where Eric Gordon receives a maximum-salary contract offer coming off an injury-plagued season, there's little doubt that George would receive the same sort of offer as a free agent. But will the small-market Pacers be willing to guarantee him that much money ahead of free agency? If so, you might assume the two sides would've already finalized an agreement. After all, it didn't take long for John Wall to ink his maximum-salary extension with the Wizards. A year ago, Blake Griffin signed his max deal with the Clippers as soon as free agency opened, and James Harden finalized his own max extension with the Rockets immediately after the team acquired him.
Of course, money likely won't be the only sticking point in contract talks. The Pacers will also have the option of offering George a five-year extension, making him the franchise's designated player. As we explain in our glossary entry on designated players, that means the team couldn't give a five-year rookie-scale extension to another player during the duration of George's new contract.
At this point, there are no candidates for that designated player tag on the Pacers' roster besides George, unless Solomon Hill is a lot better than we think. So my guess is that Indiana gives George that fifth year, and he compromises by agreeing to sign for a little less than the max — perhaps something in the five-year, $70MM range gets it done.
As we wait to see what sort of compromises the two sides are willing to make, let's get your thoughts. Where do you think George and the Pacers will eventually land?