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Paul George Opts Out Of Contract With Oklahoma City Thunder, Now A Free Agent

By Fitzgerald Cecilio
on Jun 29, 2018 10:04 AM EDT
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Paul George
All-Star forward Paul George chose to become an unrestricted free agent over a $20.7 million salary for next season. George will be actively pursued by the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Lakers. (Photo : NBA | YouTube)

All-Star forward Paul George will test the free-agent market after he opted out of the final year of his deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Sources said George informed the Thunder front office that he will not exercise the option.

The option will pay George a $20.7 million salary for the 2018-19 season. Instead, George will venture into the free-agent market as an unrestricted free agent.

However, George is interested in returning to the Thunder, who will face tough competition from the Los Angeles Lakers for the All-Star forward's services. Aside from the Thunder and the Lakers, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Houston Rockets might also join the chase for George.

The Thunder acquired George via trade with the Indiana Pacers last year. Before the trade happened, George expressed his intention of joining the Lakers, his hometown team.

George Formed Big Three With Westbrook, Anthony

Left without any choice, George eventually settled in with the Thunder, forming a Big Three with Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony. However, they had an up-and-down year before making the playoffs as the No. 4 team. They lost to the No. 5 seed with Utah Jazz in the first round.

Playing alongside All-Star guard Russell Westbrook, George averaged 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.3 assists in 79 games with the Thunder last season. In his career, George is averaging 18.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in 527 career games.

If he decides to rejoin the Thunder, George will be eligible to sign a five-year, $176 million contract extension this summer, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports. However, Wojnarowski said George might opt for a "one-plus-one" contract where he could turn free agent next summer.

In 2020, George will have 10 years of service, meaning he can sign a four-year maximum contract worth $169 million with any team with enough salary cap space.

George Could Join Lakers With James?

George tells Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman that he hopes the majority of the people will be happy with his decision to turn free agent. George added that he's excited to through the journey and the freedom of making his next career decision.

The 28-year-old George said he will consider many factors before making his final decision. However, George did not provide any hint on what team he will join next season.

The Lakers are expected to actively pursue LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and George when free agency period starts on July 1. The Lakers have enough salary cap room to accommodate maximum deals of two big-name stars. The Lakers are also trying to acquire Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs via trade.

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