Free agency is just two weeks away, which means chatter is starting to pick up. On Friday, ESPN news breaker Brian Windhorst went on a show and said that the Clippers and Paul George are still far apart in negotiations. That part wasn’t new, but Windhorst did also say that if PG is through with the Clippers, he could pick up his player option and then be traded away. Following that path would allow the Clippers to get something back for PG and also enable him to have a wider market than just teams with cap space.

For trades, I only really considered places George might accept trades to/consider re-signing at. Thus, no Jazz trades. These are just rough outlines of deals that should work in the salary cap and make at least some sense for each team. I’m not strongly advocating for any of them and the deals are, again, just outlines, but I think there are some intriguing options here. Also, try not to be shocked at how little is coming back to the Clippers here – in these situations, the Clippers would have very little leverage, as PG would effectively be forcing his way out.

Trade 1: Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes, and Picks

Kings Reasoning: The Kings slipped this year after a fantastic 2023, and need a true 3rd banana on the wing to complement De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis. PG would be willing to defer to those two as the primary playmakers while providing exceptional shooting, serving as an upgrade on defense compared to Huerter and Barnes, and adding additional creation and “bail-out buckets”. He’s a lot older than the Kings’ two stars, but Fox and Sabonis are in their primes and the Kings should be trying to make win-now moves.

Clippers Reasoning: The Clippers get younger and cheaper while filling two holes in their rotation. Barnes and Huerter are both signed for two more years, with Barnes’ deal being an overpay but not a crippling one, and Huerter on a fairly team-friendly deal. Barnes is not a starting-level player anymore, but he still adds size, three-point shooting, and veteran competence at the power forward spot. Huerter had a slight down season last year, but he’s an excellent three-point shooter who can do some tertiary creation and on-ball stuff. A Harden-Huerter-Kawhi-Barnes-Zu starting five would be pretty good, with Mann swapping in for Huerter or Barnes as needed for more defense/athleticism. The picks would be key – I think a good first, a well protected first/swap, and a couple of seconds is fair.

Trade 2: Dejounte Murray and Clint Capela

Hawks Reasoning: The Hawks have discovered that the Murray-Trae Young backcourt does not fit over the past two years, and this trade would effectively pull the plug on that. George is a much more seamless fit next to Trae Young due to his ability to play off-ball and take a high volume of catch-and-shoot threes. George is a lot older than Trae, and way older than whoever the Hawks select with the first pick, but Trae is in his prime and the Hawks seemingly want to win. Capela is well past his prime, and moving him would enable the Hawks to give Sarr or Clingan a big role if they’re select with that first pick.

Clippers Reasoning: I have questions about Dejounte’s fit with James Harden (maybe the Clippers let him walk in this case…) and his defense has slipped, but he’s a good player, he’s in his prime, and he’s on a reasonable contract for the remainder of his 20s. This trade would not fill the Clippers’ hole at power forward, but adding Murray could make moving on from other pieces easier. Capela is nowhere close to the player he was, but he’s on an expiring deal and is still a capable rotation center to plug in behind Zubac or fill in as a starter as needed.

Trade 3: Cam Johnson and Dorian Finney Smith

Nets Reasoning: I don’t think it’s good reasoning, but Joe Tsai and the Nets view Mikal Bridges as a star and want to put another star around him. Would that star make more sense if they were a guard or big man and not another wing? Sure! But this does get the Nets a star and give them a really strong pairing at wing for the next few seasons.

Clippers Reasoning: If the Clippers are truly trying to win now with Kawhi Leonard even with PG walking, I think this is the best trade of the bunch (even if it’s not my favorite overall). Johnson is an exceptional three-point shooter with size and plus defense who would be a great fit next to James Harden and Kawhi. Ditto for Finney-Smith, who would be a true power forward to help Leonard on bigger defensive assignments while still adding three-point shooting. A lineup of Harden-Johnson-Leonard-Finney-Smith-Zubac would be extremely well-balanced with shooting, defense, and creation, and would be mostly under control for the next three years. Johnson is 28 and DFS is 31, putting them right in Kawhi’s timeline.

Trade 4: Paul George and PJ Tucker for Julius Randle and Miles McBride

Knicks Reasoning: The Knicks’ run over the second half of the season showed this is now Jalen Brunson’s squad, and the Knicks found success in putting a certain type of team around him. Julius Randle doesn’t fit great there, but George does, largely due to his shooting and ability to play off-ball while still being able to add more creation than guys like Josh Hart or OG Anunoby. This move would re-center the team firmly around Brunson and make them more playoff ready (despite PG’s struggles in the postseason, he is infinitely better there than Randle).

Clippers Reasoning: Randle might be a playoff disaster, but he is a regular season floor raiser who could help keep the Clippers afloat when Kawhi inevitably misses time. He is also a bruising, old-school power forward who would add physicality and athleticism to the Clippers and help Kawhi shift back towards the perimeter. McBride had a breakout third season for the Knicks, with his combination of tenacious perimeter defense and three-point shooting being a huge boon for a Clippers team that lacked both of those items at time last year.

Trade 5: Bennedict Mathurin, Aaron Nesmith, and Isaiah Jackson

Pacers Reasoning: Adding Paul George to Haliburton, Siakam, and Myles Turner would make the Pacers a true contender, even though that core is way too expensive for Indiana and would probably have to be broken up after two years. In that window, however, they’d be one of the best teams in the NBA, with George adding even more spacing and shot creation to the best offense in the NBA while also bolstering their defense. Really, the Pacers’ willingness to pay up is the only question here.

Clippers Reasoning: I’m fairly low on Mathurin, but he’s still young, talented, and a legitimate bucket-getter who possesses real star upside with his size and athleticism. Nesmith is a bit undersized as a four, but he defends above his size well and is a nice 3 and D wing in today’s NBA on a very cost-effective deal. Jackson would help the Clippers get younger in the frontcourt and provide a stable, viable backup center option behind Ivica Zubac. The Clippers would remain competitive while getting the chance to roll the dice on Mathurin.

Trade 6: Cason Wallace, Lu Dort, and Kenrich Williams

Thunder Reasoning: The Mavs’ series revealed the Thunder’s lack of true lights-out shooting and scoring creation beyond SGA more than anything about their lack of experience or size. Paul George would add both of those qualities, helping the Thunder’s young core significantly while fitting in positionally next to Shai, Jalen Williams, and Chet. He’s on a different timeline, yes, but Shai is an MVP-caliber player, and it would be silly of Presti to not mortgage some of the future to try to win now.

Clippers Reasoning: This is a fairly light return (maybe a pick or two could be added), but the Clippers are not getting any of the Thunder’s Big 3 in a deal. Cason is the real prize here, a Second Team All Rookie selection who was a positive contributor for a contender at just 20 years old with plenty of upside to fill. Dort is one of the more overrated players in the NBA in my opinion, but there’s no question he adds toughness, defense, and regular season outside shooting. Williams is more of a throw-in, but is a deep rotation guy of the caliber the Clippers just did not have last year. Again, the Clippers would get younger and add real upside while still putting out a highly competitive roster next season.

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