- When the Indiana Pacers traded Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder last June for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, many in the NBA world felt they made a poor deal.
- Ten months later, both George and Oladipo are thriving for their respective teams, helping them secure Game 1 wins in the playoffs.
- It’s rare that a trade can benefit both sides, but the deal seems to have made both teams better.
Two of the most significant performances of the opening weekend of the NBA playoffs came from two players who were traded for one another.
On Sunday, Victor Oladipo poured in 32 points to help the Indiana Pacers pull off a surprising upset of the Cleveland Cavaliers, while Paul George dropped 36 points on the Utah Jazz to help the Oklahoma City Thunder win their first game of the postseason.
Rewind to last June, when the Pacers traded George to the Thunder for Oladipo, and second-year big man Domantas Sabonis and nearly everyone in the NBA world questioned whether the Pacers had gotten enough for their superstar forward. Oladipo and Sabonis were both coming off of disappointing seasons with the Thunder, and the Pacers didn’t receive any draft compensation in the trade.
Some of that doubt seemed to have fueled Oladipo, who made his first All-Star appearance this year while averaging 23 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists per game for the 48-34 Pacers. After helping the Pacers beat the Cavs in Game 1 on Sunday, Oladipo acknowledged that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert’s thoughts on the trade had fueled him. Last July, Gilbert said the Pacers “could’ve done better” in the George trade.
“You could say it added fuel to the fire; I guess you could say,” Oladipo said after Game 1. “But that was so long ago. It came up recently, obviously, because we were playing the Cavs in the series, but I’m aware of what he said. Can’t control his opinion.”
Even honest observers couldn’t say they saw Oladipo’s breakout coming. Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard, who pulled the trigger on the trade, admitted that while the team liked the young talent of Oladipo and Sabonis, he didn’t think the team would be so good right away.
“In all honesty, no. We thought we had the chance to be pretty good, but when I sat down with Chad Buchanan and Peter Dinwiddie and also [team owner] Herb Simon, we talked about what we really wanted to have happen from that trade,” Pritchard told Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck, adding: “I would say consensus was low-30s [wins], very similar to what the rest of the league [would have predicted for us].”
Conversely, George and the Thunder may have underwhelmed slightly in the regular season, winning 48 games, but George’s Game 1 performance proved his worth.
While nobody questioned what the Thunder gave up for George, the trade nonetheless carried risk, as George is a free agent this summer. It’s possible that the Thunder dealt two young players for a one-year rental.
With such little security going forward, many in the NBA world believe this postseason is crucial for the Thunder. Because George can depart in free agency, the Thunder may need to prove they’re at least close to championship contention this season to convince George to re-sign. A first-round loss could convince him that it’s not worth staying in Oklahoma City.
Game 1 showed that this star-studded Thunder team might be able to turn it up a notch in the playoffs, as they received 80 combined points from George, Russell Westbrook, and Carmelo Anthony. The Jazz will put up a good fight throughout the series, but that fire-power may be too much to match. And if George and Westbrook continue clicking in the postseason, it makes the Thunder a scary opponent for any team going forward.
The Pacers-Thunder trade didn’t receive nearly as much attention as the trade that sent Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics last season, but it’s already proving to be a transaction with enormous ramifications for both teams.
The Pacers traded a superstar, appear to have gotten one in return, skirted a rebuild, and now have a puncher’s chance at pulling off a massive upset in the first round.
Meanwhile, George showed the Thunder exactly why they traded for him and has helped renew talks about how big of a threat they can be this postseason.
It’s rare that a trade in the NBA can benefit both teams, but ten months after that deal, it seems like both sides are in better places.