LeBron James and Paul George play in the same city but not on the same team. With James leading the Lakers and George leading the Clippers, both teams have the potential to win NBA championships. However, had one thing worked out, George and James could be playing for championships together on the Cleveland Cavaliers.
LeBron James needed help in Cleveland
LeBron James went back to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the summer of 2014 with one goal in mind – to bring an NBA championship to Cleveland. After losing to the Golden State Warriors in six games during the 2015 NBA Finals, the Cavs bounced back in 2016. Down 3-1 in the series to a 73-win Warriors team, James and the Cavs came back and won the 2016 NBA Finals in seven games.
However, the entire NBA changed soon after that series. Kevin Durant joined the Warriors during the 2016 offseason, making probably one of the most talented teams in NBA history. Golden State then ended up defeating the Cavaliers in five games in the 2017 NBA Finals. This forced the Cavaliers to scramble and look for more talent to play alongside James.
Paul George wanted to leave the Pacers
Coming into the league during the 2010-11 season, Paul George quickly became a star in the NBA. Other than the 2014-15 season where he only played in six games, George averaged 21 points or more each year with the Pacers from the 2013-14 season through the 2016-17 season.
However, after seven seasons, George didn’t look at the Pacers as a long-term option. In June 2017, George informed the Pacers that he planned to leave the franchise when he became a free agent during the summer of 2018, according to Yahoo.
The trades that could have helped LeBron James
With the Cavaliers looking to find another star to play with LeBron James, and with Paul George looking for a new team, the two stars seemed destined to play with each other in Cleveland. It almost happened too.
The Cavaliers, Pacers, and Denver Nuggets discussed a possible three-team deal on the night of the 2017 NBA draft, according to Bleacher Report. That deal ultimately fell through. However, the three teams then tentatively agreed to a deal on a conference call on June 30, 2017. The deal was to send George to the Cavs, Kevin Love to the Nuggets, and Gary Harris and other pieces to the Pacers. However, Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard reportedly backed out of the deal, according to Bleacher Report.
Additionally, Carmelo Anthony – who played with the New York Knicks during the 2016-17 season – said in September 2017 that he was also supposed to end up in Cleveland during that offseason in a separate deal, according to ESPN’s Ian Begley.
The details for that deal are unclear.
What would the NBA look like now?
The Pacers ended up trading George to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis in 2017. After one season with Russell Westbrook and the Thunder, George re-signed with the Thunder in the summer of 2018. However, in July 2019 the Thunder traded George to the Clippers.
After 2017, LeBron James and the Cavaliers went to the 2018 NBA Finals but lost to the Warriors in four games. James then went to the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer of 2018. The Lakers then added Anthony Davis this past offseason as Davis and James have led the Lakers to the No. 1 record in the Western Conference so far this season.
In addition to losing James, the Cavs traded star point guard Kyrie Irving during the 2017 offseason after he demanded a trade
Additionally, the Knicks traded Anthony to the Thunder. He played there during the 2017-18 season and then played 10 games with the Houston Rockets the next year. This season, he has played 50 games with the Portland Trail Blazers.
It is hard to say what the NBA would look like now had these trades worked out. However, maybe bringing George and Anthony to Cleveland would have made Kyrie Irving want to stay with the Cavs. Had the Cavs acquired George and Anthony and somehow kept Irving, then a team with those three and LeBron James could have certainly competed with the Warriors for the 2018 NBA title.
If that team had won a championship or had at least come close to winning one, then maybe James, George, and even Irving would still be on the Cavaliers. With those guys on the Cavs, then the Lakers and Clippers would probably not be running the NBA this season. The Brooklyn Nets would also not have Irving and Kevin Durant who both signed there this past summer.
It is hard to 100% tell what the NBA would look like now, but if George had just gone to Cleveland in 2017 it would certainly look much different.