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Report: Celtics could have Paul George deal in place if Gordon Hayward signs

Ty Anderson
June 23, 2017 - 11:45 am

Thursday’s NBA Draft in Brooklyn was just the latest setting for yet another round of stalled trade talks centered around Paul George for the Celtics and Pacers.

But, if Danny Ainge’s persistence and Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard’s efforts to maximize George’s trade value (which is at a definite low following the public comments that he doesn’t plan on re-signing with the Pacers) have told us anything, their talks in Brooklyn won’t be the last conversations between these two parties.

In fact, according to one report, they may even pick up two weeks from now.

According to CBS Boston’s Adam Kaufman, the Celtics are ‘in a position’ to acquire George (and with a three-year extension for George in place), but the deal is dependent on the Celtics first signing unrestricted free agent sharpshooter Gordon Hayward.

This of course sounds all to similar to the idea of signing Al Horford to entice Kevin Durant to sign here (Durant, as you know, ended up signing with Golden State even after Horford signed with the Celtics), but it's with entirely different logic.

Signing Hayward first would allow the Celtics to know exactly how much salary they would have to clear off their books to match salaries in a trade to fit George and his new deal into the mix, and would also make Ainge more willing to sell pieces off his roster in order to create a Big Four featuring Hayward, George, Horford, and Isaiah Thomas.

It would be a short-term fix, at least from the original optics of a financial standpoint, as paying Thomas in 2018 would become trickier if you have both Horford and Hayward at max money, and George at something close to it. But in the present, it would undoubtedly give the Celtics the goods to at the very least legitimately compete against LeBron James and the suddenly weakening Cavaliers for the East’s crown. And given George’s effectiveness on both sides of the ball, it could even be enough to make things interesting should the C’s square up against the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

It may sound like fantasyland kind of stuff, but with George a goner and wanting to win, anything appears to be on the table should the right deal come about.

"Multiple things came up [Thursday],” Pritchard admitted. “We looked at a lot of things that included draft picks, but at the end of the day there's so much other stuff that doesn't include draft picks that we decided to stay put and look at everything that's on the board in the future. We're not going to make a bad deal.

“We want to get what we want."

And if there’s an extension in place for a player whose scoring has actually gone up over the last two seasons -- George averaged a career-high 23.7 points per game and shot a career-best 46.1 percent last year -- the Pacers will certainly get what they want.

So, just what would the Celtics be willing to give up to make it work? You would almost have to assume that a pricier NBA piece such as Jae Crowder or Tyler Zeller would play a role in the deal, but that it would be headlined around the inclusion of an Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, or Jaylen Brown and some of the club’s future first-round picks.

There’s no shortage of futures that the Pacers can ask for, too, as Celtics have their own first-round pick in 2018, as well as Brooklyn’s pick, and could also land the Lakers’ first-round selection (from Philly) should the Lakers’ pick fall between No. 2 and 5. And if not, the C’s will get either a Top-1 protected pick from the Kings or Sixers in 2019. The C’s also own (protected) first-round picks from both the Clippers and Grizzlies.

There’s of course been natural reluctance on the C’s part when it’s come to moving a potential top pick (the Celtics didn’t do it for Kristaps Porzingis or Jimmy Butler, though Ainge said that the Nets’ 2018 pick is not untouchable), but a George extension would seemingly open up that possibility, both as an ask or throw-in, from both parties.

“I’m confident we’ll get something,” Pritchard noted.

“We could pull the trigger at any time.”

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