Earlier today, we relayed a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on the Thunder‘s efforts to engage the Raptors in trade discussions involving Paul George. As Wojnarowski explained, the threat of Oklahoma City sending George to Toronto instead of to Los Angeles forced the Clippers to put a massive offer on the table to ensure that they secured not only George but Kawhi Leonard as well.
[RELATED: Thunder to trade Paul George to Clippers]
Wojnarowski’s report suggested that Thunder head of basketball operations Sam Presti had been open to pursuing a deal with the Raptors that would have sent both George and Russell Westbrook to Toronto, with Pascal Siakam as the centerpiece of the deal. However, Raps president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri balked at the idea, and talks didn’t gain traction.
Bruce Arthur of The Toronto Star adds a few more details to that report, tweeting that the Thunder asked for Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and four unprotected first-round picks as a starting point for George.
Arthur’s report doesn’t make clear whether Westbrook was involved in that proposal, or which veteran(s) the Raptors would have had to include for salary-matching purposes. However, according to Arthur, the Raptors believed they were being used as leverage — and also believed that Leonard would be headed home to Los Angeles.
Wojnarowski’s and Arthur’s sources paint a similar picture of the Raptors’ involvement in these trade talks with the Thunder. It sounds as if things never really got all that serious from Toronto’s side, given their concern that they were being used to get more out of the Clippers, but OKC had to make the Clippers believe that sending George to the Raptors was a real possibility. Ujiri and Raps GM Bobby Webster didn’t have the ability or the inclination to top the Clippers’ offer, league sources told Wojnarowski.
It’s possible that the Raptors would’ve made a stronger push for George if they’d known that acquiring him would lead directly to a long-term commitment from Leonard, but there’s no indication that was the case.
As Wojnarowski reported, the Clippers believed Kawhi would go to the Lakers if the Clips couldn’t acquire PG13 — assuming they were right, it’s not clear that Toronto acquiring George would have changed that.