According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi, Paul George has informed the Oklahoma City Thunder that he is opting-out of the final year of his contract and will become an unrestricted free agent.
“Oklahoma City Thunder star Paul George has informed franchise officials that he will not be opting in for the final year of his contract and will become an unrestricted free agent, league sources told ESPN. George has an 11:59 p.m. ET Friday deadline to formally decline to opt in.
George, who will decline a $20.7 million salary for the 2018-19 season, remains seriously interested in returning to the Thunder in free agency, league sources said. The Los Angeles Lakers will receive serious consideration too, sources said.
Several teams, including Philadelphia and Houston, are interested in pursuing George too, league sources said.”
While the move was long expected, the Thunder must now attempt to win over George when he begins taking meetings with other organizations on July 1. As Woj stated, teams like the Sixers and Rockets figure to be in the mix — but the greatest threat to Sam Presti and Oklahoma City comes from the Los Angeles Lakers. George’s affinity for his hometown team is very well-chronicled at this point, and if their leaked sales pitch to the 5-time All-Star is any indication, they will try desperately to appeal to George’s ethos with a “come home, it’s your destiny” approach that will be difficult to ignore.
Nevertheless, the Thunder seemingly has good odds at retaining George — he’s apparently a big fan of Presti, coach Billy Donovan, and playing with Russell Westbrook. On last night’s SportsCenter, Wojnarowksi said George has grown “comfortable” playing in Oklahoma City and that his “thinking has changed” since the foregone conclusion of him signing with the Lakers that existed this time last summer. That may not end up being enough, but the outlook is far more optimistic than many predicted.
George is eligible for a five-year, $176 million max extension with the Thunder, although many assume he would do a shorter, one-plus-one deal that would allow him to spend another season in Oklahoma City before re-entering free agency next summer. It should be an interesting week as he begins taking meetings and ultimately makes a decision that will heavily shape the OKC roster now and well into the future.