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Paul George Will Not Opt Into Final Year of Thunder Contract, Will Become UFA

Paul George has told the Oklahoma City Thunder that he will opt out of the final year of his contract, and will become an unrestricted free agent, according to ESPN‘s league sources.

George has been the subject of intense trade speculation since the Thunder fell to the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference First Round. The 28-year-old will turn down a $20.7 million salary by opting out, but George is still seriously considering remaining with the Thunder next season.

Additionally, the Los Angeles Lakers are another team that will receive special consideration by George. The Lakers initially believed George was a lock to join their franchise for the 2018-19 season after George had told the Pacers last year that he intended to join the Lakers in free agency. However, George’s interest in returning to OKC means the Lakers are no longer the overwhelming favorites to acquire the forward.

The Thunder’s unlikely contention with the Lakers for George’s services has been boosted by George’s strong relationship with Russell Westbrook, GM Sam Presti, and head coach Billy Donovan.

Meanwhile, the Lakers pursuit of George and the San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard will likely have an effect on LeBron James‘ free agency plans. By acquiring one of George and Leonard, the Lakers could make themselves a more likely destination for Cleveland’s marquee talent.

Apart from the Lakers and Thunder, the Philadelphia 76ers and Houston Rockets are interested in pursuing George as well, sources say.

As is the case with James, a “one-plus-one” contract with the Thunder remains a viable option for George, which would allow the All-Star forward to return to free agency next summer. And by 2020, George would be eligible for a $169 million maximum contract, having provided ten years worth of service in the league.

Moreover, George could sign a five-year, $176 million contract, but such a deal is less likely considering the lack of control George would have over his future.

Photo: Timothy Nwachukwu/Getty Images
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