July 19, 2024

Paul George to decline player option, become free agent

The move puts George on track to become an unrestricted free agent, and he intends to schedule meetings with the Clippers – who control his Bird rights– and other suitors with cap room beginning on Sunday evening, says Wojnarowski.

The decision also means that an opt-in-and-trade scenario is off the table for George, so over-the-cap teams who were hoping to acquire him – including the Warriors – will no longer have a path to do so.

George turned 34 in May but has continued to produce like one of the NBA’s best wings in recent years. In 74 games in 2023-24, he averaged 22.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.5 steals in 33.8 minutes per game, posting a strong shooting line of .471/.413/.907.

The Clippers signed their other star forward – Kawhi Leonard – to a three-year, $152M contract extension in January and have reportedly attempted to get George locked up to a similar deal, which is below his maximum in terms of both years (he can get up to four) and dollars. The Los Angeles native has been unwilling to sign what his hometown team has put on the table so far and – with the two sides apparently at a stalemate – will weigh his options on the open market.

The Sixers, who will have more than enough cap room to accommodate a maximum-salary contract, have long been viewed as the biggest threat to the Clippers for George. A report last week indicated that Philadelphia’s interest in pursuing George had “waned,” but Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report (X link) hears from sources that the 76ers are still expected to aggressively try to lure George away from the West Coast. The Magic are another team with significant cap room that has been mentioned as a potential suitor.

As our maximum salary projections for 2024-25 show, rival suitors will be able to offer George up to a projected $212.2M over four years, while the Clippers could bid up to about $221M over those four years. Typically, Los Angeles would be able to offer a fifth year to a Bird-rights free agent, but that’s not an option for George due to the over-38 rule.

While a sign-and-trade deal sending George to a new team is technically possible, it likely won’t be a practical option for over-the-cap suitors. A team that takes back salary in exchange for a signed-and-traded player becomes hard-capped at the second tax apron, so acquiring upwards of $40M in salaries for George probably won’t be viable for the Clippers.