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Orlando Has Paul George’s Magic Number And More

Los Angeles Clippers star Paul George guards Orlando Magic star Paolo Banchero

Los Angeles Clippers swingman Paul George still hasn’t publicly said he’ll be opting out his deal ahead of the 2024-25 season. However, his contract negotiations with the Clippers have fallen through, L.A. unwilling to pay him more than running mate Kawhi Leonard. As a result, the nine-time All-Star is widely expected to opt out of his contract and test free agency this offseason.

If he chooses to enter the market, he’ll arguably be the top prize. Even if Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James declines his player option for 2024-25, there are likely fewer teams the grizzled veteran would be willing to go. However, one team that they both could consider is the Philadelphia 76ers.

Or so it seemed.

Orlando Has Paul George’s Magic Number And More

In the latest episode of Podcast P with Paul George, George seemed to take a veiled shot at Philadelphia 76ers president Daryl Morey.

“Believe it or not, players talk,” George says. “And then reputations go around, like, ‘Hey man, I don’t know about going to this place… Watch your back.’ You know what I mean?’ That’s the conversations you have.”

With George just wrapping up a season with James Harden, these comments could go beyond the surface. Indeed, Harden only made it to the Clippers by forcing a trade out of Philadelphia. While his initial desire to leave wasn’t because of Morey, the situation unraveled in such a way to make Morey look like he wasn’t a man of his word.

With Harden looking for a new deal last offseason, he expected to be given a short but rich contract extension or to be traded. According to Harden, there was an agreement with Morey. However, Morey neither made an effort to re-sign Harden or trade him. Only by kicking up a fuss, including going on a tirade in China, was he moved.

The worst part about it? Morey was just as reluctant to trade Harden when they were with the Houston Rockets. So much so that Harden had to resort to somewhat juvenile measures to get the point across.

All of that could just be the byproduct of an owner put in a bad situation. Rarely do teams want to trade a great player. A future Hall of Famer. Nonetheless, it does make it hard for Morey to nail a first impression if that’s the reputation that precedes him.

Not Ring Chasing?

There is a team with interest in George and unproblematic lead executive.

The Orlando Magic can free up to $65.5 million in free agency this offseason. That’s more than enough to sign George to the max. However, despite the Magic’s (ahem) magical season in 2023-24, they aren’t quite a bonafide contender. Perhaps they could make it back to the playoffs next year, but nobody is expecting Orlando to win a ring.

For a player of George’s stature, the thought is that he would like to compete for championships year-in and year-out. That’s the standard —at least so far as mentality —that’s been set by the all-time greats. That said, for all of his flaws, George is one of the most talented players ever. So wouldn’t he have the same mentality as James or idol Kobe Bryant?

“I mean, for sure contributing to winning basketball,” George says of what he’s looking for at this stage of his career. “But I mean, at this point —I’m not even necessarily… —it’s not even about people saying chasing a championship.”

“It’s not that, but it’s playing the right style of basketball is what I’m chasing,” he finishes.

With that, the door opens for his arrival in Orlando. He’s already lauded Paolo Banchero’s superstar potential after the Magic’s rising star averaged 27.0 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.1 steals per game in the 2024 NBA Playoffs.

If he’s willing to defer to Banchero —who has become the Magic’s fulcrum on offense —and lend his two-way excellence as a 1B to Banchero’s 1A, then he’d be a great match.

A Magical Match

To start, George is an elite perimeter defender joining a team that prides itself for its defense. In fact, Orlando ranked fourth in opponent’s points per game (108.4) and second in defensive rating (111.3) last season thanks to their physical tools. Joining the Magic as a 6-foot-8 and 220-pound shooting guard, Orlando just becomes that much more formidable.

Secondly, George is marksman from deep, knocking down 38.5 percent of his career 3s. Over the past five seasons, he’s made 39.7 percent of his long range attempts. So, while his heavy diet of tough midrange jumpers can leave him vulnerable to an off night, his 3-ball is consistent.

Last but not least, in order to truly be a championship contender, they have to be able to beat the reigning champions. In this case, that’s the Boston Celtics. One of the few superteams left in the NBA, they only lost three playoff games on their way to hoisting the Larry O’Brien. The Magic may have an MVP caliber player and exceptional defense but they simply need more talent to compete with the likes of the Celtics.

George gives them that. A go-to scorer for years, he averaged 23.4 points per game in his final two seasons with the Indiana Pacers, 25.0 points per game with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and 23.0 points per game with the Clippers. A player who can literally do it all, he’s led teams to the postseason as the No. 1 option on several occasions. If they need a player to break down the defense, create something out of nothing, or takeover as a scorer, he can do that. Perhaps not as consistently as people would like —which underscores Franz Wagner’s importance —but plenty.

After spending seven years in the Western Conference, the time is ripe for a return back East. And, just because he’s leaving California behind, he doesn’t have to leave the weather. But does George believe in magic?


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