First Russell Westbrook signed his five-year extension, and now it looks like another piece of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s new core is here to stay. Forward Paul George has verbally informed the Thunder that he intends to re-sign with the team when his current deal expires at the end of this season, a source close to George’s camp has informed the Hoops Inquirer.
This verbal agreement is, of course, non-binding. George’s decision to re-sign with the Thunder, who acquired the star forward via trade in July, appears to have been motivated primarily by Westbrook’s decision to re-up with the franchise to the tune of $233 million over six seasons at the end of September. George’s decision may also have been motivated by the Thunder’s acquisition of forward Carmelo Anthony, also via trade, on the eve of training camp.
Though no potential contract details have been discussed in any capacity, the Thunder, who own George’s Bird Rights, will be able to offer the forward a max contract worth $176 million over five years. If the Thunder offer George this deal and Anthony opts in to the final year of his contract, the franchise could be heading for luxury tax hell. If this situation comes to pass, the Thunder could have a total salary bill that surpasses $300 million dollars. All indications from team ownership thus far, however, have suggested that the franchise is going all-in on keeping their new “Big Three” together, no matter the cost.
Notably, this development squashes any rumors connecting George to the Los Angeles Lakers. Rumblings around the league in the months since the star expressed his desire to leave the Indiana Pacers were that George, a Los Angeles native, was dead set on signing with his hometown team at the end of his current contract. George had more or less denied those rumors over the summer, but they persisted anyways. Those rumblings should quiet down now that George has expressed his commitment to the Thunder (or at least they should until George next approaches free agency).
This development adds to an already herculean run of recent success for the Thunder organization. Since losing Kevin Durant in free agency in July 2016, the Thunder have twice extended Russell Westbrook, made the playoffs, and acquired George and Anthony in unexpectedly lopsided trades. This run of success looks like it will continue in the coming season, as the new-look Thunder have played well in the preseason and early regular season and are projected to be a top four team in the powerful Western Conference. Now with George in tow for the long haul, that success could continue for years to come, and maybe elevate the Thunder to new and thrilling heights.