As Clippers prepare for draft, Paul George's future hangs in balance

A collaboration between Paul George and the Clippers could come in many different forms.

And that is perhaps the most pressing concern the Clippers must evaluate, even more so than the NBA draft, which starts Wednesday night.

They don’t have a first-round pick in the 2024 draft, just a second-round selection at No. 46.

At that position, teams usually look for the “best player available,” and that will be the same for the Clippers.

The Clippers’ best options probably will be wing players and guards, and they won’t be on the clock until Thursday night.

But the most important thing for the team is dealing with George’s situation.

He has a player option for $48.7 million and has to let the Clippers know by Saturday whether he’ll opt in on his deal.

George can decline the option and become a free agent if he and the Clippers are unable to come to an agreement on an extension before Sunday. He’s eligible for a four-year deal worth $221 million from the Clippers before that date, something George is seeking.

So far, the two sides have not been able to get a deal done.

Russell Westbrook ($4 million) and P.J. Tucker ($11.5 million) also have player options they are expected to exercise by the deadline.

When Kawhi Leonard agreed during the regular season to a three-year contract extension with the Clippers for $152 million, the team had conversations with George about a similar deal.

But no deal came to fruition and it was left up to George to speak on the matter after the Clippers were eliminated from the Western Conference playoffs in Game 6 by the Dallas Mavericks.

George, 34, was asked if he could see himself with the Clippers long term.

“Yeah,” George said in May. “If it works that way, absolutely.”

The rumors have been flying about George opting out of his contract and other teams looking to sign him, including Philadelphia and Orlando, which could pay him up to $220 million over four years.

The Golden State Warriorshave been linked to George as well, according to people not authorized to speak on the matter.

To join the Warriors, George would have to opt in to his contract for a trade to take place and then the two sides would talk about a contract extension.

George played in 74 games during the 2023-24 regular season, the most in his five seasons with the Clippers. He averaged 22.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and shot a career-high 41.3% from three-point range.

He averaged 19.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists in the first-round playoff series against Dallas.

George played a pivotal role in the Clippers reaching their first Western Conference finals in 2021.

Lawrence Frank, the Clippers’ president of basketball operations, talked about George returning and teaming with Leonard and free-agent-to-be James Harden when the team plays its inaugural season at Intuit Dome.

“We want Paul, we value Paul,” Frank said during the team’s exit interviews in May. “Paul’s done some tremendous things here. He’s an elite player, and our biggest thing is we always want to be able to treat players well and pay them fairly, and we also have to build out a team, especially, this is a new CBA [collective bargaining agreement].

“But in terms of the exact money, I would never go into details other than we’ve had really, really good conversations over the course of the year and [we are] hopeful that we can get him to remain a Clipper.”

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