NBA Free Agency Odds: Where to Now for George, Hayward?

After missing out on the All-NBA teams yesterday, the future for two of the Association’s second-tier superstars is up in the air. And unlike an Andre Drummond free throw (CLANG!) the outcome isn’t certain.

Without getting too in depth on the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Pacers and Jazz would have been able to offer Paul George and Gordon Hayward, respectively, a bundle more cash (like $60 million more) when their current contracts expire if they had made one of the three All-NBA teams. For George, that’s at the end of next season. For Hayward, it’s this season (if he exercises his player-option, which he will). The Pacers can still make a slightly better offer (in the form of a five-year deal instead of a four-year deal) but the difference isn’t what it could have been.

The change in the CBA was motivated by Kevin Durant bolting for Golden State last year. The league wanted to create a way for small-market teams to retain their best players, so it developed a system in which teams could offer certain of impending free agents more money than other suitors. While the factors that go into decisions on where to sign are myriad and vary greatly from player to player, the anecdotal evidence I’ve gathered suggests that everyone loves extra money.

Now that the extra money won’t be available from Indiana and Utah, will George and Hayward bolt for greener pastures? (Er, I guess “greener” isn’t really the right word now, is it?) It was made abundantly clear in this year’s playoffs that neither the Pacers nor the Jazz are ready to compete for a title. The Pacers are a one-man team (that man being George, himself) while the Jazz simply don’t have enough offensive weapons to make a serious bid for a championship. So if they want to win now, they’ll have to move elsewhere.

Winning isn’t the only factor, of course. As I said, the factors that go into these decisions are myriad. For George — a California native — just getting the hell out of the midwest is going to be appealing. For Hayward — a Butler product — the possibility of reuniting with Brad Stevens could pull him toward Boston.

Obviously, with one year left on his contract, George won’t be signing anywhere else this season. But the Pacers could be in the market to move him now and get something in return, instead of seeing him walk for nothing at the end of the year.

What jerseys are these two snubbed stars going to be donning come September? Let’s set the odds.

Odds Paul George is traded to _____ by the end of the 2017-18 season

  • Nowhere: 5/3
  • Boston Celtics: 4/1
  • LA Lakers: 11/1
  • FIELD: 15/8

The Celtics make the most sense as a landing spot. They are really good, but not championship material. Like the Hawks of yesteryear, they’re lacking a top-10 talent, and they just can’t compete with Cleveland without one. George is the rare player capable of moving the needle significantly for a team. There’s also a train of thought that says, “don’t bother while LeBron is still in the league.” The Celtics have the Nets’ first-round pick again next year and would almost certainly have to move it to Indiana in order to acquire George. If you’re building for a few years down the road, you need to keep that pick.

There’s still a real chance the Pacers don’t move George. If he makes an All-NBA team next season, then Indiana will be able to offer him the extra money they can’t right now. George’s desire to leave Indiana seems apparent, but turning down $60 million is a rare occurrence in the NBA … or any walk of life.

For the Lakers, trading for George doesn’t make a lot of sense. They’re not going to win next year — with him or without him — and they already know they’re the frontrunner to sign him when his current contract expires at the end of the season. Giving up assets to get him a year early isn’t worth it, unless you’re worried that whatever team he land with will be able to extend him before he becomes a free agent.

Odds Gordon Hayward signs with _____ for the 2017-18 season

  • Utah Jazz: 1/1
  • Boston Celtics: 6/5
  • FIELD: 20/1

The Celtics are going to go hard after Hayward, by all accounts. If they can sign him, they’d be able to try to win now while still building towards a LeBron-free future (by retaining the Nets’ 2018 first-rounder). Hayward isn’t quite as valuable as George (22.71 player efficiency versus 21.06); he’d still be a massive help against the likes of the Cavs, though, at both ends of the floor. As mentioned, the potential to join ex-Butler coach Brad Stevens will be a big selling point for the soon-to-be free-agent.

But will it be enough to lure him away from the Jazz? Utah has been Hayward’s home for seven years now, and the Jazz are on the rise. Their defense gave up the fewest PPG last year, and if they can find a way to improve their attack, they could be ready to make the leap from above-average to Western Conference contender. With a couple assurances from the front office that Hayward will get a little help at the offensive end next year, staying put may be the best option for him and his young family.

AlexanderP

Alexander is the MTS editor-in-chief. Frank, Alex, and Geoff brought him in when they realized that their betting expertise far surpassed their grammatical abilities. He loves overanalyzing college basketball trends. Talking to him during the first weekend of March Madness is like talking to a wall. A very focused wall, but a wall nonetheless.