What would have happened if Paul George had been traded to the Warriors?

Imagining PG-13 in Golden State’s starting 5

July 14, 2017 - 2:04 pm

By Segun Giwa

On Thursday afternoon, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Indiana Pacers offered Paul George to the Warriors for Klay Thompson before he was eventually traded to Oklahoma City. Golden State (rightfully) hung up the phone when the offer was made, but what would have happened if GM Bob Myers had pulled the trigger?

Let’s take a look in the alternate universe in which the trade was made:

Picture this starting five — Stephen Curry at the point, George and Kevin Durant at the wings, and Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia banging down low.

George and Thompson are different players but have some of the same traits. Defensively, they both have the ability to completely take the player they’re guarding out of the game, as we saw Thompson do to Kyrie Irving numerous times in the NBA Finals.

Whenever a discussion is brought up about the best “two-way” players in the league, these two players are usually mentioned within the first three names.

On offense is where we’d notice the biggest difference in this hypothetical swap. Thompson is one of the few players in the league whose impact can be felt even when he doesn’t have the ball.

You have to account for Thompson at all times, whether it’s in transition, coming off screens in the half court, or spotting up in the corner. Thompson’s ability to detonate on any given night with minimal touches, like he did on December 5 scoring 60 points in 29 minutes on 11 dribbles, makes him a perfect fit for the Warriors free flowing system.

George on the other hand is far more effective with the ball in his hands. George averaged 24 & 7 on 29% usage compared to Thompson’s 22 & 4 on 26% usage. Not only would George’s usage go down with the Warriors, but he’d be expected to take advantage of the wide open 3’s he would get. Per NBA.com, Thompson averaged 7.1 catch-and-shoot 3’s per game last season compared to George who shot just under five catch-and-shoot 3's per game.

George would have to adjust his isolation heavy game to better fit the Warriors offense. He would no longer have to take difficult shot after difficult shot as he would trade in a washed-up Monta Ellis and young Myles Turner for two former MVPs and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

How would George have reacted to being the third option on offense? We’ve seen him call out teammates after big games to the media in the past. Would George be able to guard point guards such as Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, and Damian Lillard like Thompson does on a nightly basis? Would George, who only has one year left on his deal, even have re-signed with the Warriors?

We’ll never know, but it sure is fun to think about.

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