June 30th will mark three years. Three years since what many called one of the most lopsided trades ever. Three years since the Pacers, with their backs against the wall, traded away one of the most talented superstars to ever put on the blue and gold, Paul George.
The summer of ’17 was hell for many Pacers fans. Just two weeks earlier, George, at Robert Mathis’ annual celebrity softball game at Victory Field(home of Pittsburgh Pirates Triple-A Affiliate Indianapolis Indians), was surrounded by local reporters, trying to get a hint from PG regarding his future with the team. Young Trece, as George annointed himself as when he returned from his leg injury in 2015, said all of the right things in the meeting with reporters as well, stating, “”it’s all about trying to bring a championship to Indiana.” That’s what all Pacers fans were starving to hear from the face of Indiana sports.
George was entering the summer with a single year left on his deal and many speculated that George’s stardom would be taking it’s talents elsewhere come the 2018 season.
Indiana was coming off of it’s second straight first round exit from the Eastern Conference Playoffs, this one coming via a 4 game sweep from LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Fast-forward a few days and it’s almost like what George said days prior was all a dream. Reports dropped that the 4 time All-Star had informed upper management that he had no intentions of re-signing with the team the following summer and that he would like a trade.
George has since came out and said that the conversation he had with the Pacers were in no way meant to be released to the public and he was doing it in the effort of getting Indiana the best value back in return.
Indiana’s options were limited with interested teams when it came to finding a deal for George. The Los Angeles Lakers, George’s favorite childhood team, didn’t want to give up many assets because they believed they could bring PG to LA the following summer. Indiana made an offer to Golden State for sharp shooter Klay Thompson, but that’s as far as those talks went.
But then, on a Friday night, the news broke that George was being shipped to the Thunder for IU product Victor Oladipo and big man Domantas Sabonis.
Oladipo’s first three pro seasons were spent in Orlando where the Magic won no more than 35 games, with the hopeful savior of the franchise averaging nearly 16 points per, 4 assists, 4.5 boards, and 1.6 steals. VO was then shipped to OKC the following summer to team up with Russell Westbrook. The move gave Vic the opportunity to learn how to be the leader of a squad and how to play with a ruthless mentality.
Meanwhile, Sabonis had a productive rookie year, starting 66 of 81 games, averaging 6 points and 3 boards per night.
OKC was beat in 5 games in a first round match up against Houston and then the George trade happened, which, as I mentioned above, was labeled by many talking heads as an extremely lop-sided one. In fact, remember the tweet that the OKC Police Department sent out following the trade?
Skip ahead eight months and we’re in February, where Oladipo has become a star in the making for Indiana, the go-to guy, Mr. Clutch, and appearing in his first All-Star Game. Meanwhile, Sabonis is a nightly double-double threat off of the bench, and George is doing what George always does, he appearing in the ASG as expected.
Come playoff time, Indiana ran into James and the Cavs again, taking them to the brink this time, falling in 7. Meanwhile, the Big 3 of Westbrook, George, and Carmelo Anthony were stunned in 6 games by the upstart Utah Jazz.
George shocks the world that summer and instead of going to LA, he re-signs with the Thunder on a 4 year deal.
The following season saw Oladipo take a slight dip in production, large due in part to a nagging knee injury, which could have played a part in the season ending quad rupture he suffered in January. Nonetheless, Oladipo was thriving yet again as the Pacers #1 and was named an All-Star for the second straight season. Meanwhile, the tandom of VO and Domas was thriving beyond levels that were expected in the Pick-and-Roll. Sabonis’ production off of the bench continued to skyrocket, averaging 14 points and 9 boards per.
Indiana’s hopes of a deep playoff run took a big right hook once Vic went down and his absence was felt in Indiana’s fourth straight first round exit, this time coming via a 4-0 sweep by the Boston Celtics.
Meanwhile, down south, OKC moved on from Anthony after a lone season, leaving the duo of Westbrook and George to run, and George did not only run. He took off, averaging a career high 28 points per game, pulling down 7 boards, and leading the league in steals, swiping a little over two on the nightly. All of that led to George finishing 3rd in MVP voting behind Harden and the runaway winner, Giannis Antetkounmpo.
George’s individual success didn’t translate to team success though. The team struggled to find consistent scoring from anyone outside of George and Westbrook, leading the Thunder to another first round exit, this time in 5 to Dame Lillard and the Blazers.
After the season, the league was in store for a star-studded free agent summer, with Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant being the league’s two biggest dominoes. Leonard was coming off of a legendary championship run with the Toronto Raptors, who defeated Durant’s Warriors in 6. Durant missed a majority of that series with an Achilles injury, one which he tried to come back on and eventually ruptured.
Durant didn’t waste much time making his decision, teaming up with Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn. Meanwhile, Leonard played the waiting game. Then, like a Randy Orton RKO out of nowhere, during the middle of the night, in the midst of the NBA Summer League, Leonard orchestrates his way to the Clippers and bringing George with him. He did it as quiet as a church mouse too, in the most Kawhi way ever. He was only coming to LA if he could get George out of OKC and to LA, which he did. The Clips sent a massive haul back to Thunder GM Sam Presti, including the likes of promising young star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a multitude of draft picks.
It’s also quick to point out that Sabonis made his first All-Star Game this season in Chicago and at the postponement of the season, Domas was averaging 18.5 points and 12.4 rebounds per night and he also broke Troy Murphy’s Pacers record for most double-double’s in a season with 50.
So now, here we are. A little under two months away from basketball starting back up in Disney World with one of the two teams still hoisting the two players they got in return on that late summer night in June. George had one great year in OKC, but they never made it out of the first round and they were hoodwinked just like Indiana was.
So, Oklahoma City Police Department and every other sports outlet that thought Indiana got absolutely ripped 3 years ago, are you sure about that one?