Regular season impact of the Paul George trade

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 13: Victor Oladipo /

As the regular season comes to a close, we look back at the impact of the Paul George trade for the OKC Thunder and Indiana Pacers.

Back in July 2017, OKC Thunder fans were blown away by the news that the team had acquired Paul George in a trade. When healthy, George was one of the NBA’s most elite two-way players. He led the Indiana Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2012-13 and 2013-14.

George was fresh off of career-best season averages in points per game (23.7) and field goal percentage (46.1), including 39.3 three point percentage. He had made NBA  first and second team All-Defense, once apiece and appeared to be just what OKC needed to replace the gaping hole in the roster left by Kevin Durant.

To acquire George, the OKC Thunder had to give up two players: rookie Domantas Sabonis (81 games, 66 starts, averaging just 6 points and 3.6 boards) and largely disappointing experiment Victor Oladipo (67 games, 16 points, 4.3 boards, and 2.6 assists).

Great expectations

As mentioned above, Victor Oladipo did not pan out the way that most fans had hoped. He was recognized around the league as an up-and-comer, but failed to be the three-and-D star that the Thunder were hoping he would be. Trading Dipo and Sabonis to get perennial All-Star George made a lot of sense.

Paired with newcomer Carmelo Anthony, Oklahoma City was poised to be at least a top-5 team in the West. Most new teams take time to gel, so growing pains were also expected.

A 45 and 34 record is not too bad at this point, but certainly not where the team would have hoped to be (the largely Russell Westbrook-only squad went 47 and 35 last year).

Unexpected results

Not only has the Thunder record remained largely unchanged from last season, they are now in danger of missing the playoffs. This will be a true testament to the impact of the trade. The biggest surprise though is the success of the Indiana Pacers and their leader: 2018 All-Star Victor Oladipo.

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With Paul George, the Pacers finished 42 and 40 last year. With Oladipo and Sabonis, they are already 47 and 32. Does this mean that Indiana “won” the Paul George trade?

In a way, yes. The rejuvenated Pacers are playing at a very high level, with their young stars at the forefront. Even Sabonis is averaging 11.5 points and 7.8 boards, marked improvements over his rookie starting days in OKC. Oladipo is averaging 23/5/4 with a league-leading 2.3 steals per contest.

The playoffs, if the Thunder make them, will be a whole new story. For the regular season however, the once lopsided-seeming trade for OKC has taken a 180 degree turn.

Somehow, the Pacers managed to take a big step forward while the Thunder have not.

All stats from Basketball Reference