KEY POINTS

  • Paul George says a star power forward wanted to play with him in Indiana.
  • Indiana told George they couldn't afford this star player.
  • Blake Griffin fits the description of the unnamed power forward mentioned by George.

Three years after being dealt by the Indiana Pacers, Paul George is giving more insight into why he asked the team that drafted him for a trade. In an appearance on “Knuckleheads with Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles,” the star forward explained his decision to play elsewhere.

According to George, the final straw came when the Pacers refused to pay a marquee player that wanted to join him in Indiana. 

“I had, at the time, the best power forward saying he wanted to come to Indy and team up with me,” George told Richardson and Miles. 

The Pacers told George that they couldn’t afford this player because they are a small-market team. That’s when George told his agent he wanted out of Indiana, and he was sent to the Oklahoma City Thunder shortly afterward.

“What am I doing here?” George asked himself at the time. “They don’t wanna win. I got the best power forward that wanna come play here. Like, not everybody chooses Indy to come play at. This dude wanted to come play here. They didn’t want to do it.”

All of that raised one obvious question: who is this power forward that supposedly wanted to play in Indiana?

It might not be too difficult to narrow down the list of candidates. George asked to be traded in June 2017, and he indicated that his conversation with the unnamed player happened around that same time. Three All-Star-caliber power forwards were free agents that summer. One stands out as the likely player in question.

Kevin Durant had the ability to opt-out of his contract and test free agency, but there’s virtually no chance he informed George that he wanted to go to Indiana. Durant had just won the 2017 NBA Finals MVP award in his first season with the Golden State Warriors. Durant could be described as either a small or power forward.

Paul Millsap was also a free agent in 2017. He left the Atlanta Hawks for the Denver Nuggets, signing a three-year, $90 million contract. Millsap was coming off his fourth straight All-Star appearance, but no one would’ve confused him for the best player at his position.

Assuming the power forward that spoke with George was a free agent in 2017, Blake Griffin appears to fit the description best. 

Limited to 96 regular-season games in the previous two years because of injuries, Griffin was arguably the NBA’s best true power forward when healthy. Griffin finished third in the 2014 MVP race and eighth in the 2015 MVP voting. He averaged 21.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game for the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2016-2017 season.

Whether or not he showed serious interest in joining the Pacers, Griffin stayed put in Los Angeles by inking a massive five-year, $171 million contract ahead of the 2017-2018 season. Six months later, he was traded to the Detroit Pistons. 

The Pacers went 42-40 and were swept in the first round of the playoffs in George’s final season with the team. Griffin was a 2019 All-NBA Third-Team selection, but his continued battle with injuries likely would’ve prevented Indiana from ever becoming a contender had the Pacers been able to pair him with George.

Indiana traded George to Oklahoma City in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. After two straight first-round exits, the Thunder sent George to the Clippers in the summer of 2019.

Blake Griffin Blake Griffin is not asking for a trade from the Detroit Pistons for now. Blake Griffin #23 of the Detroit Pistons dribbles the ball against the Washington Wizards in the first half at Capital One Arena on January 21, 2019 in Washington, DC. Photo: Getty Images/Rob Carr