Once again, the Warriors chose Klay Thompson over another All-Star.
This time, it was the Indiana Pacers who came knocking in search of Thompson.
And Paul George, speaking Thursday on the podcast of venerable NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski, confirmed that he was the bait.
The Warriors, of course, did not bite. They have their reasons.
Before trading the four-time All-Star to the Thunder on June 30, the Pacers shopped George around the league in hopes of making the best deal. George can become a free agent next summer, and he announced plans to leave Indiana. The Southern California native previously had made it clear that he’d like to land with the Lakers.
He instead got Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma City, at least partly because the Warriors rebuffed Indiana’s overtures.
“Yeah, I was aware of it,” George said of the proposed deal involving Thompson. “I would have looked forward to it of just being able to be in a good situation and a chance to compete for a championship. It didn’t happen. It’s still fun to team up with a special talent and have a chance to compete against that team.”
So why would the Warriors turn down an opportunity to add George to a group that would include Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green? There are no fewer than three rational reasons.
First and foremost, it would come at the expense of Thompson, a three-time All-Star they drafted in 2011. The Warriors value Thompson as much — if not more — for his defense than his prolific scoring. They consider him the perfect partner for Curry, who benefits from Thompson’s floor-stretching ability on one end and his defensive qualities on the other.
George would have to play guard, and the 6-foot-9 forward wouldn’t be able to defend the perimeter players to which the Warriors assign Thompson.
Second, George needs the ball and Thompson doesn’t. Thompson needed only 11 dribbles to score 60 points in three quarters — and had the ball for a total of 90 seconds. George might dribble 11 times in five minutes.
The questions about whether Durant’s game could exist within the framework of the Warriors were not legitimate. Any questions about whether George’s game could do so are profoundly legitimate.
Third, the prevailing opinion George is he will land with the Lakers, the team he grew up rooting for largely because of a player, Kobe Bryant, that George idolized.
How could the Warriors, no matter how confident they are in the seductive qualities of their culture, reconcile swapping two more years of a player they know for one year of one they don’t?
It was three years ago that the Timberwolves and the Warriors discussed a trade involving Kevin Love and Thompson. The Warriors considered it, but the brain trust was divided. Coach Steve Kerr and then-adviser Jerry West — after watching video of Love on defense — were vehement in their support of keeping Thompson. The Warriors walked away.
They have no regrets.
This time, the Warriors most assuredly didn’t reach the point of serious consideration.
George, for his part, doesn’t think it would have mattered, that the league would have stepped in to block a deal that would have sent him to the NBA champs.
“Yeah I think that would have been the Chris Paul to LA (Lakers) situation, where they denied that trade,” he said, referencing then-commissioner David Stern’s block of a deal that would have sent Paul from the Hornets to the Lakers.
For what it’s worth, the Paul-to-the-Lakers deal, in 2011, was easier to kill because the league already had taken temporary ownership of the Hornets.