Why would the Oklahoma City Thunder pay Russell Westbrook $205 million over the next five years if Paul George leaves? Why be willing to pay $250 million to $300 million for a roster that doesn’t scream “title contender” if he stays?
Well, it has to do with one thing: Relevance.
You see front offices, or more to the point the human beings who run them, are insecure. Such insecurities can lead to desiring the praise and acceptance of others.
Ask yourself why the majority of women love roses being sent to their office (even though they die after a few days). Or consider why men love fast cars with nice rims even though speeding can be costly and rims can’t be admired if you’re the driver.
It’s the perceived notion of relevance, the desire to remain relevant, and the insecurity of not being relevant
The idea of relevance is often overvalued. This becomes truly evident with owners and general managers of professional sports teams, during free agency. This is why Paul George will be vigorously pursued this offseason should he opt out of his contract.
Forget the fact that George has never elevated a franchise and shrinks in big moments. Disregard that the Indiana Pacers progressed after his departure, surpassing the belief that they were not a playoff team. And ignore that a Lebron James led team needed seven games to eliminate the Pacers from the postseason without his services.
It’s not that a roster featuring Russell Westbrook and Paul George with Andre Roberson as a defensive wing will be lacking in talent. But George’s resigning won’t put them ahead of the Rockets, Warriors, or any of the other Western Conference teams vying for a championship.
Paying a high price in luxury taxes for a team that didn’t even win 50 games would be ridiculous.
Let George Walk
To say that losing George with nothing to show for it would sicken OKC fans would be an understatement.
Oklahoma would be able to get under the projected tax threshold of $123 million with some resources to spend elsewhere.
Aaron Gordon, Jabari Parker, and Isaiah Thomas are lesser tier players who would be available. And Westbrook has proven he can survive with players who don’t come close to their caliber. Their presence might even make a round or two interesting or at the very least entertaining in the playoffs.
All things being equal, what plausible alternatives do the Thunder have? They won’t be hoisting a championship trophy any time soon anyway. That’s the one thing that could make them truly relevant.
And that’s not likely to happen in the near future.