Should the Miami Heat trade for Paul George?

Feb 16, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) brings the ball up court against the Washington Wizards at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Washington defeats Indiana 111-98. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 16, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) brings the ball up court against the Washington Wizards at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Washington defeats Indiana 111-98. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

Paul George will not be a free agent until 2018, but the Indiana Pacers do not want to lose him for nothing. This could be where the Miami Heat swoop in.

There’s been a lot of speculation about where Paul George will be playing next season. George will not be a free agent until the 2018 offseason, but he has already made it clear he wants to play for the Lakers if he were to be a free agent, and there is certainly mutual interest there.

Magic Johnson, who is the current president of basketball operations of the Lakers, has already expressed interest in obtaining George. However, it was recently stated by insiders close to the Lakers that they will not trade any assets for George this season, with confidence that he will join them in 2018.

This leaves the door open for other teams to trade for George this season. I understand that there is definitely a huge risk involved with trading for him, as he becomes a free agent the next season. However, this is something that Pat Riley has done in the past, and it has worked out for the Heat.

Pat Riley the risk taker

If you remember in 2015, the Miami Heat traded for Goran Dragic at the trade deadline. Dragic was also an impending free agent at the time, making the trade a big risk. However, not only did Dragic succeed in Miami, but he also bought into the culture, and elected to stay once the season was over, signing a five-year contract.

The Heat also made a blockbuster deal in 2004, trading for Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq was also an impending free agent coming in, but signed a five-year extension after the season.

This is one reason why I believe the Heat could trade for George this offseason, if the price is right. George is an All-star and a top-five player at his position.

The unfortunate injury to Justise Winslow this season has temporarily paused his development and, while Rodney McGruder was a pleasant surprise, George is a clear upgrade.

Would adding Paul George make Miami a contender?

Although the Heat were one game away from making the playoffs, they were a much better team then what their record showed, finishing the second half of the season with a 30-11 record.

The only other team in the NBA who won at least 30 games in the second half of the season were the Golden State Warriors, who just swept their way to the NBA Finals. Miami had to overcome multiple injuries and lineup adjustments, but once they gelled they showed what they could accomplish.

This goes to show that the Heat are closer to contending in the East than their record shows.

Also, the East is a weak conference, with LeBron James and the Cavs being the one huge obstacle. What is interesting though, is that the teams that have found success against LeBron are teams with a good shot blocker at the rim, and a good two-way player that can make him work on both ends of the court.

If you remember the 2013 and 2014 Eastern Conference finals–the last time a team has given LeBron a true challenge in the East–the Pacers had this exact formula. The Pacers were able to take the Heat to a Game 7 in an exciting series in 2013, and gave them some trouble in 2014 despite losing in six. What was the key to them having some success against Miami? Was it Lance Stephenson’s ear blowing? No, it was having the 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert protecting the rim, and George making LeBron work on both ends of the court.

Can the Miami Heat emulate this formula?

Hassan Whiteside is significantly more athletic than Hibbert, and an even better shot blocker. In addition, George now has more experience, and is now entering the prime of his career.

If the Heat can retain James Johnson and Dion Waiters, they could be looking at a starting lineup of Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Paul George, James Johnson, and Hassan Whiteside.

With LeBron playing as well as he ever has, it will still be a tough task to knock off the Cavs, but you have to put yourself in a position to compete.

Could this formula really work?

In 2013, the Heat were able to counter this formula by playing small-ball, and moving Chris Bosh to center. This forced Hibbert to guard Bosh on the perimeter which opened up the lane. Hibbert was only a good defender in the paint and could not guard on the perimeter, and was too slow to recover and block any shots.

Hassan Whiteside is more capable of recovering and guarding the perimeter if necessary (though it’s still a stretch for him) and he matches up well with Tristan Thompson being one of the few bigs in the NBA who can out-rebound the Cleveland center. The Heat could run into trouble when Cleveland goes small with Channing Frye at the 5, but the versatility of James Johnson and George could cover up some holes.

What’s the plan?

Now, of course, it will depend on how much the Heat would have to give up in order to get George. A package involving the 14th pick and young assets such as Winslow, Richardson, and Tyler Johnson could be enough if other teams aren’t willing to take a chance on a deal.

Next: Heat could help Paul George reach his potential

Although the trade would be a big risk, Pat Riley has shown that he is not scared to swing for the fences, and this is one that could work out for the Heat. Most players that play in Miami fall in love with the culture and coaching staff and want to stay. If Paul George finds success in South Beach, why would he leave to join a bottom-dwelling Lakers squad?

It’s a risk the Heat need to explore this offseason.