After one up and down season with the Thunder, Paul George has a $20.7 million option to stay in Oklahoma City for 2018-19. With 8 years of service, George is eligible to sign a maximum extension of 4-years, $136.5 million with the Thunder or any other team. This contract would start at $30.3 million next year and put PG13 into the top-10 highest paid players in the NBA. It seems likely that other teams, such as his hometown Los Angeles Lakers, will offer the max, leaving the Thunder to decide just how far they want to go with this “OK3” experiment.
George had an effective season amidst all the inconsistency in Oklahoma City, accounting for 8.9 Win Shares and a .148 WSP48, while recording 2,891 minutes (9th most in NBA). His Win Share was 20th best in the League–the 20th salary spot is occupied by Anthony Davis at $25.5 million next season. Davis had the 4th most Win Shares at 13.7 and top-10 WSP48 of .241. Al Horford currently sits 10th in the NBA with a $28.9 million salary, and his numbers (7.8WS, .165WSP48) compare favorably for George.
For the Thunder executives, a better comparable would be George’s teammate, Steven Adams (OK4?). In his 5th season, the Kiwi recorded 9.7 Win Shares and .187 WSP48. Both of these marks are ahead of George, and even if both players are improving, Adams is 3 years younger. If George is willing to accept less than the max to stay with the Thunder, it might make sense to align him with the remaining years on Adams’s contract, and adding a fourth year to make it 4-years and about $106.7 million, starting off at $24.2 million next season. Of course, it may prove difficult for George to pass up a max offer somewhere else and this will put the Thunder front office in a tight spot to keep a very important piece for this team at a reasonable deal to enable them to add bench pieces. George is valued at slightly under the max, but will most likely receiving more than one max offer this summer if he decides to opt out.
The Thunder escaped this game with a one-point win and are understandably still developing a comfort level and optimal spacing in their third preseason game with their summer acquisitions. Carmelo Anthony is looking for his rhythm on both ends of the court. Defensive rim protection is an issue when Melo and Jerami Grant are on the back line together, even though the movement offensively is appealing to watch. Josh Heustis continues to be active in limited minutes, showing he could be an option to play more center behind Steven Adams.
Russell Westbrook looks to be in his usual form, dictating pace and choosing his spots to attack or distribute offensively. I would expect nothing less from the MVP than what we witnessed last season, but the question remains of who can effectively fill in for Russ at the point guard position to keep his minutes at a reasonable level. Raymond Felton showed some of what the Thunder were hoping for today before going down with a sprained left wrist–that he can be a playmaker with or without Westbrook on the court with him. Semaj Christon and Daniel Hamilton have played short stretches there, and maybe Paul George can fill in for minutes in a lineup with Roberson, Anthony, Grant and Adams.
This summer’s 21st pick in the Draft, Terrence Ferguson, is showing great activity and defensive awareness at the shooting guard position. He will be a useful option for Billy Donovan if he can keep it up throughout the regular season, but be prepared for some growing pains with any rookie.
In the era of “small-ball,” the Thunder should Go Big this season with Grant playing power forward and Adams at center. This could free up Anthony to slide to small forward and Paul George to shooting guard. Teamed with Westbrook, this dimension of options on the wings creates size and speed advantages at multiple positions. The Thunder will have plenty to look at before going to Denver to face an upstart Nuggets team with a strong frontcourt of their own to deal with.