Amidst news that the Philadelphia 76ers made an offer to the Indiana Pacers for All-Star swingman Paul George, the question must be asked: how would George fit with the current Sixers roster?
Last month, after weeks of speculation and rumors, the Indiana Pacers finally traded their star forward, albeit to an unlikely destination in Oklahoma City. And Thursday, Brian Windhorst of ESPN reported that the Philadelphia 76ers kicked the tires on George.
The specifics of what exactly Sixers President of Basketball Operations offered for George remains unclear.
Regardless, the four-time All-Star’s skillset would have made for a seamless fit with the Sixers, vaulting Philadelphia into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference.
George possesses the versatility to man either wing position, but given the signing of J.J. Redick, he would slide in at small forward. Despite fan favorite Robert Covington developing into one of the top perimeter defenders in the league last season, George is a considerably better shooter and playmaker.
Between Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, the acquisition of George would provide Philadelphia with a tertiary ball handler, affording the team an opportunity to harbor a strong playmaker on the court at all times. While George is not as gifted a distributor as Simmons — or even Fultz for that matter — he periodically assumed the role of point forward during his time with the Pacers and appeared comfortable initiating the offense.
Two of the Palmdale, Ca.-native’s best strengths lie in his 3-point shooting ability and elite defense. The past two seasons, George shot 39.3 percent and 37.1 percent from deep, attempting over six a game each year. Pairing George on the wing with one of the league’s best marksmen in Redick would afford both even more open shots than either has previously experienced, given the generational vision and playmaking ability of Simmons.
Rostering two extremely adept shooters would give Simmons, Fultz and Joel Embiid more room to operate, creating one of the most potent offensive attacks in the NBA.
As a three-time All-Defensive Team member, George would serve as the team’s top perimeter defender, guarding some of NBA’s top wings in LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard among others. While Covington could replicate such defensive production, his substantial shortcomings offensively set him apart from George.
When healthy, Embiid has shown the ability to anchor an elite defense. Adding George to the fray would solidify the Sixers as one of the most vaunted defensive teams in the league.
While both Simmons and Fultz have the makings of future superstars, the reality remains that both will be rookies next season playing for a team eyeing the playoffs. Neither will be accustomed to late-game, high-pressure situations in an NBA setting. Enter George, who would give the team a go-to scorer on the perimeter during crucial moments, during both the regular season and playoffs.
George has been the man on a team that made back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals appearances. He knows how to handle the weight of expectations that come with being a franchise centerpiece — both the praise and scrutiny. For Simmons, Fultz and Embiid, George’s tutelage and guidance would prove beneficial. In the coming years, all three will be looked upon to guide Philadelphia to a championship.
This young core will certainly experience their fair share of both ups and downs. Knowing how to deal with these extremes could be the difference between becoming title contenders and NBA Champions.
Despite George’s seemingly ideal on-court fit with the Sixers, the idea of trading a future draft pick and valuable young asset(s) in exchange for a likely one-year rental of the All-Star forward was, at best, parlous. At 27 years old, George is entering his prime while the Sixers’ cornerstone pieces of Simmons, Fultz and Embiid sport an average age of just 21. George’s versatile and well-rounded skillset belongs on a team whose title window parallels his own — à la the Thunder with 2016-17 MVP Russell Westbrook. Ultimately, Colangelo and company made the sound decision to test the waters on George without damaging the term’s long-term outlook.