Across the NBA on Friday night, for the teams not involved in the trade derby for Paul George, the news of where he went and how little he was traded for generated the same reaction – confusion and disbelief.
“Who knows?” texted one Eastern Conference executive.
Oklahoma City acquired George, a top-10 talent in the league, by shipping one nice starter, guard Victor Oladipo, and one young prospect, big man Domantas Sabonis. And … that was it.
In one quick swipe, Oklahoma City reasserted itself into the championship chase – still not equal to Golden State, but at least it can see the Warriors from here.
Meanwhile, the league was left asking one question: Where exactly was Boston? Armed with a slew of first-round draft picks and a roster full of young talent, the Celtics could easily have crafted a deal with something better than Oladipo and Sabonis.
Oladipo is a good player, a proven 16-point-a-night scorer entering his fifth season in the league. As a former Indiana Hoosier, he is sure to be popular in Indy, which will need all the fans it can get as it enters a rebuild. He’s also being paid a sizable $84 million over the next four years.
The Potential to Surround Westbrook with Defense
At this point, it’s no secret Westbrook struggles on the defensive end.
He can make the occasional athletic play, but he’s far more prone to watching the ball and functioning as a distinct liability. He’ll wait on the perimeter before darting in for a defensive rebound to kick-start a fast-break attempt, and that can often be detrimental to Oklahoma City’s overall efforts.
George’s arrival could change that, and not just because he’ll take charge on a number of offensive possessions and allow Westbrook to conserve more energy for two-way play.
The small forward is a legitimate defensive stud who can consistently take on tough assignments. He’s capable of switching on picks to guard plenty of different positions, and he genuinely seems to pride himself on his point-preventing prowess.
Just imagine if the Thunder are also able to re-sign Andre Roberson, who’s a restricted free agent this summer. It’s a tough proposition given the addition of George’s massive cap figure, but it’s possible if they’re willing to dip into the luxury tax.
An Off-Ball Weapon
Right off the bat, it’s easy to assume Westbrook and George could struggle to coexist.
We all saw the give-and-take between the point guard and Kevin Durant before the latter left to join the Golden State Warriors, and it created frustrating late-game situations a bit too frequently. The Thunder were obviously still a dominant outfit, but they provided the inspiration for innumerable think pieces about the superstar tandem’s feasibility.
No such concerns should exist here.
During the 2016-17 campaign, George posted a usage rate of 28.9 percent while assisting on 16.1 percent of the shots his teammates made while he was on the floor. Throughout Durant’s final season in OKC, those numbers stood at 30.6 and 24.2, respectively. That’s a big difference over the course of a full 82 games, and it’s compounded by starkly different styles.
Durant’s usage always came when he was the creator of his own looks. Over his final three years with the Thunder, he required assists on just 48.3 percent of his two-pointers and 60.6 percent of his triples. On the flip side, George has always created an even higher percentage of his twos (37.5 percent of them were assisted last year), but he’s been heavily reliant on set-up passes beyond the arc. It’s that comfort and willingness to serve as a spot-up threat that will work wonders with Westbrook.