It's a familiar refrain here at Liberty Ballers that there's three ways to acquire a star in the NBA -- you sign one, you draft one, or you trade for one.
Normally, we focus on the idea of drafting one, but with the amount of ammo Sixers arms trader Sam Hinkie has stockpiled in his two-plus year tenure, it's time to consider a different route.
With a war chest of young, cheap, and talented players, and enough first round draft picks over the next few seasons to start a family band (you're on triangle, Oklahoma City), the Sixers have the pieces to be a desirable trading partner for any team that has a star player to move when the time comes. While nothing's imminent, there's starting to be a lot of smoke coming out of Indiana.
Over the summer, the Pacers began talking about using star guard-forward Paul George at power forward, in order to use a smaller lineup and play with a little more pace.
In June, George seemed on board with that.
"I'll be ready for it. I'm working on making that change and being prepared to play some forward this year," George told the Indianapolis Star in June. "I understand what Larry (Bird) wants as far as playing the faster pace. I mean, I'm for it. That's the way the league is going nowadays."
Somewhere along the line however, that opinion changed, and George became a little more hesitant, possibly when he learned the Pacers planned on starting him at power forward and using him primarily as a power forward instead of just situationally as a matchup curveball.
When some of those reservations began to leak to the press, George's boss, former Chardón jeans pitchman Larry Bird was not thrilled.
Pacers' Larry Bird on Paul George not wanting to play major minutes at power forward: "He don't make decisions around here." Column coming.— Gregg Doyel (@GreggDoyelStar) July 14, 2015
That tension somewhat lingered throughout the summer, with George taking the approach that he wasn't thrilled with the arrangement, and Bird essentially saying "deal with it" while slowly lowering sunglasses onto his face.
The slow-burning feud reignited last week, when Pacers coach Frank Vogel told reporters that his "idea on paper" was to start George at the four. George responded the same way I respond when I've just settled in with a group of friends at a nice, quiet bar and one of them yells "HEY, LET'S GO SOMEWHERE ELSE!"
"That's kinda new to me. We talked about it some, (but) for him to say it in the papers, I guess he's pretty confident on me starting as the power forward. So that was new to me.
"I don't think I'm at that point in my career where I should be changing positions. I think guys do that later in their career. They put on weight, (begin) lacking physical attributes as far as being quick, so I don’t necessarily feel the need to play a different position, especially coming back into a new season and starting fresh again. So it’s a change, it’s definitely a change. We’ll see how it goes."
Then, this weekend, we saw how it went.
After first gm starting at power forward, Paul George: "I don’t know if I’m cut out for a four spot. I don’t know if this is my position."— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) October 4, 2015
OK, let's pour some cold water on ourselves first. On the grand scale of basketball star tantrums, this is like a two. For one, it's pretty easily solvable. At some point, the Pacers could just cave and let him play small forward again. The Pacers currently plan on having C.J. Miles start at small forward, so the position is not exactly roadblocked.
That said, it's starting to get interesting. For one, the Pacers behavior isn't really characteristic of the typical treatment of a star. Trying to force an unwilling star into something hasn't exactly been a successful tact for most teams through history, and they usually don't snipe through the press about it.
Also, George has made no secret of how much he dislikes this whole process publicly. It's hard to imagine he hasn't voiced even more complaints about it privately, and yet, here we are.
Would the Pacers consider dealing George if this continues? I don't think it can be ruled out. How many times does a star player who has never won anything get to call out his bosses before they get tired of it? The Pacers floated in mediocrity last year with George on the shelf for most of the year with a broken leg, missing the playoffs on a tiebreaker. Maybe they would consider moving him for a strong return. Teams have done dumber things, as many Sixers fans can attest.
Is it likely? Probably not. But we're starting to get to the point where it's worth talking about. George, still only 25 years has three years left on a deal that will be well below market with the rising cap, plus a player option that will only be exercised if George reinjures his leg while bowling. As a trade chip, there's not much better value to be had than that. Plus, they may have already found their new star!
They don't even need Paul George anymore!
Anyway, since we're talking about it, the next question is, what would it cost to acquire George, and that depends on what the Pacers are looking for. Are they trying to blow it up, or do they want to remain competitive?
If they're blowing it up, I'd imagine young, controllable player and draft picks would be the priority. This deal isn't happening tomorrow, so let's say we're talking about this at the deadline, or next offseason. The Sixers have their own pick, plus the Lakers, Heat, and Thunder picks to move, as well as their own pick going forward, and the Sacramento pick off in the distance. There's no team that can match the Sixers in combining quantity and quality of picks. On top of that, they have young centerpiece prospects in Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor who few teams could match.
If they want to remain competitive, that gets a little dicier, but the Sixers are still in the hunt. Noel was an impact player for a bad team last year, and he'd be an impact player for a good team as well. Combining Noel with a valuable role player like Robert Covington and a pro-ready prospect like Dario Saric makes them an intriguing match on the player end as well, not to mention Okafor, who many would agree was likely the most pro-ready prospect in this draft class and could have an immediate impact.
A combination of players and picks would likely be the route Indiana chooses, and on that end, the Sixers are obviously well-suited.
For the Sixers purposes, George is the player to empty the bank vault out for. There's not going to be many better players up for grabs, and even fewer that are such a perfect fit for this team as constructed. Even if you move one of Noel or Okafor in a potential deal, the other one is probably still here, and adding a wing with George's skillset would be a massive step forward for this franchise.
Is it time to go out and buy your customized George jerseys? No, for that, you should probably wait until six months after the Sixers acquire him, when NBA Shop will finally realize it's happened and start selling his merchandise.
But it's starting to get weird in Indiana, and if it continues to get weirder, you had better believe that General Hinkie is ready to pounce and now, he might finally have the pieces to do it.