To the surprise of no one, All-Star forward Paul George elected to decline his (discounted) 2018-19 player option in order to enter full-blown unrestricted free agency on July 1. While that move did close some doors for the 28-year-old, George was one of the top players on the market and, as a result, there was plenty of buzz regarding his next contract, including extensive ties to the Los Angeles Lakers and his incumbent team, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
At the end of the process, though, George elected to pull the trigger on a new deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The news was announced by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski just before the start of free agency and got confirmed by Sam Amick of USA TODAY Sports.
Not only is Paul George staying, he’s going to be with the Thunder for a long time. The two sides agreed to a four-year max deal worth $137 million that includes a player option in the fourth year, which is a significantly different deal than the two or three year deal most anticipate.
After arriving in Oklahoma City prior to last season, George produced at a high level. His per-game averages (21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists) did drop from career-best levels but, given the situation alongside a ball-dominant player like Russell Westbrook, that was to be expected. In addition, George’s value stems from his two-way ability, with high-end athleticism and length on the defensive end and the ability to act as a lead scoring option when asked to do so.
George’s decision will undoubtedly have an impact on the overall market and the league at large and only a handful of players can boast that kind of influence. It’s a major blow to the Lakers — both because of the long-speculated move George would make to the team and because of their quest to load up with stars alongside, potentially, LeBron James — but for the Thunder, keeping George around is a gigantic win.