3 dark horse fits for Paul George after another Clippers postseason failure

Paul George will reportedly explore his options in free agency this offseason. He's been linked with the Magic and 76ers but they're not the only contenders who could be in play.
Mar 15, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George (13) moves the
Mar 15, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George (13) moves the / Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

With the Los Angeles Clippers keeping up short on yet another playoff run, the future of their big three feels more precarious than ever. Kawhi Leonard has been locked into an extension but the Clippers missed their chance to lock up Paul George to a similar one during the season and will now likely have to reconcile with him opting out and exploring free agency, not to mention the free agency of James Harden.

Paul George is reportedly open to re-upping with the Clippers but has also said that he will explore his options in free agency and is likely to get plenty of attention. Teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic have already been linked with George in free-agency rumors but they're not the only teams who could find a way to offer him a max extension and a chance to compete for a ring.

The three teams below are fairly unlikely landing spots for George but they could each use his talent and theoretically find ways to make the financials work.

3. Indiana Pacers

Paul George started his career with the Indiana Pacers and blossomed from a 3-and-D wing to legitimate star and All-NBA talent. He was traded by the Pacers after the 2016-17 season when it was clear that the current roster had hit their ceiling — including two straight losses to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.

There were at least some hard feelings when the Pacers and George parted ways but the core pieces of that franchise iteration — Lance Stephenson, Roy Hibbert, Frank Vogel — are all gone and for all intents and purposes this is a vastly different team with a fanbase that may be more than happy to welcome George back.

George would be a huge boost to the Pacers' wing rotation — a strong defensive addition, a great floor space and a complementary creator to Tyrese Haliburton who could really help the Pacers offensive in the halfcourt. The catch is that the Pacers almost certainly wouldn't have room to offer George the max extension he's seeking if they also try to sign Pascal Siakam. But if Siakam gives the Pacers an indication that he'd like to go elsewhere or catches them off guard by signing early with an opponent, a hard pivot to George would make a lot of sense for everyone.

2. Sacramento Kings

The Kings came up short this season, dropping out in the Play-In Tournament, a disappointing follow-up to their first postseason appearance in decades. The core of De'Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis is strong, Malik Monk was fantastic off the bench and Keegan Murray looks like a budding star. But Kevin Huerter took a big step back and the limitations of Davion Mitchell and Harrison Barnes are increasingly clear.

George would be an absolutely perfect fit for the Kings — a consistent 3-point shooter, excellent wing defender and secondary creator. He could absolutely feast on the curls and dribble hand-offs that Huerter failed to capitalize on this year will providing a big boost on defense and in veteran experience.

The problem is that the Kings are cash-strapped and would have to get very creative to land George. They would probably need to let Malik Monk go and then find non-guaranteed contracts they could take back in exchange for Barnes and Huerter, who they'd then waive to make room for a max deal for George (and even that may not be quite enough). One very hypothetical scenario would be sending Barnes and Huerter to the Warriors in exchange for Chris Paul's non-guaranteed deal but the Warriors may be loathe to help a rival and have something else they'd prefer to use Paul's cap space on.

Of these three scenarios, this one probably has the most financial moving parts but it might have the biggest possible impact on the Western Conference power structure.


1. Golden State Warriors

The Warriors have some big decisions to make this offseason and, thus far, have seemed to indicate they'd like to bring back both Klay Thompson and Chris Paul, although probably on a much cheaper deal in the case of the latter. However, waiving Paul and Kevon Looney (who has an $8 million, non-guaranteed hit for next season) and letting Thompson go could open up enough room for the Warriors to make an offer for George.

The fit is fairly obvious, George could offer everything they got from Andrew Wiggins during their championship run two years ago but a much higher level. And the upshot would be that the Warriors could also explore trading Wiggins to augment their depth, get a replacement for Looney and/or some additional shot creation.

Trading Wiggins may be hard with his value likely near rock bottom (and may be essential to clear enough cap space for the salary George wants) but swapping George for Thompson and turning Wiggins into several hole-plugging depth pieces looks like a clear upgrade on paper.

Subscribe. The Whiteboard Subscribe CTA. The Whiteboard, FanSided's daily NBA email newsletter. dark