Oklahoma City Thunder: Paul George, Small Forward (2017-Present)
Most teams tend to have a certain advantage when it comes to re-signing their own free agents with the ability to offer a more lucrative deal. In regards to Paul George’s relationship with the Oklahoma City Thunder, that edge was non-existent, creating a lasting saga throughout the entirety of the 2017-18 NBA season.
Oklahoma City had swung a blockbuster deal for George after he had expressed his intent to leave the Indiana Pacers once his contract expired, forcing his former team to deal him. More so, George also made known his wish to head to Southern California above all else to play for his hometown Los Angeles Lakers.
The Thunder were granted no assurance from George upon acquiring him. Instead, they were given a head start on a free-agency pitch, one to convince the six-time NBA All-Star that Oklahoma City was where he belonged long term.
Each passing game seemed to sway the conversation one way or another. To his credit, George didn’t let it affect him in averaging 21.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. The Thunder, however, seemed to underachieve, with just 48 wins and a disappointing first-round exit at the hands of the Utah Jazz.
George seemed all but headed to Los Angeles, Oklahoma City unable to woo him with a convincing enough finish to the season. And yet, as the clock struck midnight on July 1, there was George on a stage in Russell Westbrook’s backyard announcing his return on what would be a four-year, $137 million deal.
The impact of his signature was tremendous for the organization. After the departure of Kevin Durant, it looked as though the Thunder would be forever stuck in basketball purgatory, their only joy coming in the form of a nice round stat line from Russell Westbrook.
Sure, the results still wound up the same this season with a first-round exit, this time at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers. In George, however, the Thunder managed to find a suitable replacement for Durant, while at the same time re-establishing themselves among the best in the west. Quite the reward for a blind leap of faith.