All-Star forward Paul George, considered one of the most prized commodities on the free agent market this offseason, has signed a max contract to remain with the Oklahoma City Thunder, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
The deal covers four years, including a player option, and will pay George roughly $137 million over the life of the contract. Since the Thunder received George's Bird Rights via the Indiana Pacers trade, they were able to offer him more money than any other team along with an extra year.
Recent rumors suggested that George would settle for signing a two or a three-year deal to stay in Oklahoma City -- likely so he could accrue 10 years of NBA service time and qualify for the richest max contract available -- but the man known as "PG-13" elected to stay with the Thunder for the long haul instead.
OKC keeps a two-way star
George, the 10th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, has become one of the premier two-way players in the league. He broke out in his third season with the Pacers, averaging 17.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists while helping the Pacers become one of the best defenses in the association. After leading Indiana to consecutive Eastern Conference Finals appearances, George suffered a gruesome leg injury while playing for Team USA in the 2014 offseason. This caused him to miss all but six games in the 2014-15 season. He returned to his usual All-Star form the following season.
After the 2016-17 season, George grew frustrated with the Pacers' lack of roster improvements and requested a trade out of Indiana, with the Los Angeles Lakers his preferred destination. The Pacers instead traded him to the Thunder for a package that included Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. The trade looked lopsided in favor of the Thunder at the time, but Oladipo's ascendence to All-Star status combined with OKC's up-and-down season evened the scales a bit.
What does this mean
Obviously, this keeps the Thunder on the edge of the title conversation. However, the team doesn't have a ton of flexibility to improve the roster. George's contract, along with Carmelo Anthony opting into the final year of his contract puts the Thunder well into the luxury tax for next season. They could buy out Anthony or waive him and use the stretch provision, but that remains to be seen. No matter what they do with Anthony, George staying keeps OKC competitive.
This move also greatly affects the Lakers. With enough room for two max players, the team obviously hoped to snag George, an L.A. native, in an attempt to entice LeBron James to sign as well. With George now off the table, this may intensify their efforts in trading for San Antonio Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard, whether James chooses to sign with the Lakers or not. Either way, this has made the 2018 free agency period a little more interesting.