NBA: Indiana Pacers at Chicago Bulls

As we approach the final 24 hours before the trade deadline is behind us, the two biggest names that still to seem be on the board are Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls and Paul George of the Indiana Pacers.

With both players, the conundrum is the same: Whether to keep them on the team and continue to build around them, with the fear that it’s going to take more time, wasting away the star’s prime ability before they bolt in free agency while the team still tries to figure out what pieces to put around him. Then there’s the other side to that coin, which says that the road towards contending for a title is shorter if they simply trade away the best player on the team.

As we approach the end of the All-Star break, both teams are above the black line which separates playoff teams and lottery teams, but not by much. In the Pacers case, it’s a real disappointment, which has them gauging George’s price on the market. The most serious mentions regarding a George trade have been in connection to Boston (the same goes for Butler). What would the Pacers get in return? There are talks about a first round pick (the one the Brooklyn Nets swap with the Celtics, which means a potential #1 pick) and either Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley. Teams want Jaylen Brown as well, which seems to be the reason the Celtics still haven’t pulled off the big deal everyone is expecting to see from them.

George has reportedly met with the owner of the Pacers, Herb Simon, and has repeated his desire to stay and win with the team. However, George wants to see Larry Bird put the right pieces around him. This season, the Pacers transitioning further from a defensive, mostly isolation offense team hasn’t really worked out. Their record is only 29-28, and they’re mediocre in both offensive and defensive efficiency, after finishing with the third best defensive efficiency in the NBA last season. George has one more season on this deal (2017-2018) before a player option year in 2019-2020. He can also extend his contract with the team before next season begins, but that probably depends on what he sees from the franchise. 

Things might be a bit simpler in Chicago, although it depends which side of the media you want to believe. One tells it as if there’s a split in the Bulls front office, with John Paxson feeling that the only way to move forward is tear everything down, which means trade Butler for something big, and start rebuilding instead of winging it. Gar Forman still wants to keep Butler, and thinks that adding pieces around the 3-time All-Star, averaging a career high 24.5 points per game, is still the best way to go, despite the limiting contracts with Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade, and the disappointing 28-29 record.

Butler has two more guaranteed seasons past this one before a player option year in 2019-2020. He is eligible for an extension starting July 2018, which sounds very likely considering that his $17.5 million salary this season is way lower than what he could be making under the new salary cap. Before we sign off, one fresh rumor is the Los Angeles Lakers making a strong push to trade for George, as something of an impact move by new President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson. Right after the news came out, a contradicting tweet was sent into the atmosphere, suggesting the Lakers aren’t pursuing George. If anything is going to happen with Butler and George, it’ll probably be much closer to the actual deadline.

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