Media members have an important vote ahead of them.
No, I’m not referring to the Most Valuable Player award or Coach of the Year, which also has several serious options.
Approximately 100 media members, a combination of beat reporters covering all 30 teams and national reporters, will have an impact on Paul George and perhaps his future with the Pacers when they submit their ballot by Friday for the All-NBA teams. (In previous years, it included 130 and included both broadcasters and writers employed by teams.)
Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which was signed by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association on January 19, 2017 and takes effect on July 1, George is eligible for the Designated Veteran Player Extension.
“I’m one of the guys that agreed on it,” George said then. “Was happy with what our NBPA came up with. I think it’s beneficial for a lot of reasons. We’ll see when it comes to contract time.”
Of course he’s happy with it because he has a chance to earn additional serious cash.
This extension would allow for George, who’s completing his seventh season as a pro, to sign a five-year extension at 35 percent of the salary cap. In July, he could add five more years to his existing deal, for a total of six seasons under contract with the Pacers for more than $200 million. And while official numbers are not yet known, it would be about $70 million more than any other team — but only if he is voted to one of three All-NBA teams for his play this season.
The salary cap for the 2017-18 season is projected to be $101 million, up from $94.1 million this year, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.
In order to qualify for this extension, a player must have met one of the following criteria: the player was named to the All-NBA first, second, or third team, or was named Defensive Player of the Year in the immediately preceding season or in two seasons during the immediately preceding three seasons; or the player was named NBA MVP during one of the immediately preceding three seasons.
George was voted Third Team All-NBA in 2013, 2014, and 2016. He missed the first 76 games of the 2014-15 season due to the compound leg fracture.
Since March 1, George elevated his game and averaged 33.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game — and he shot 54.4 percent from the field over the final 22 games.
After he posted his third double-double in five games and scored a game-high 32 points, George was asked whether he believe he was deserving of another All-NBA honor.
“Man I hope so,” he said. “You’ve got a couple guys that so-called have been ahead of me, who have other guys on that list. I’ve been trying to lead and do it at both ends this whole season. Hopefully they take that into account, especially closing this year out, get us in the playoffs.
“If I make it I do. If I don’t, so be it.”
George is currently the highest-paid Pacer earning $18,314,532 for this season. He’s on the books for $19,508,958 next season.
The four-time All-Star has two years left on a five-year deal worth more than $90 million that he signed in September of 2013, when he was 23 years old. George’s camp willingly took less than the max — about three percent less than the maximum of 30 percent of the cap — in exchange for a player option in the deal for the final year (2018-19).
And while the voting system is flawed in that members of the media impact a contract of a player AND potentially his future with a franchise, those 100 or so individuals have a tough decision to make. There are six forward spots, two on each of the three teams.
George’s primary competition includes LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler, and Gordon Hayward. And, it could include Anthony Davis if voters classify him as a forward rather than a center. (He’s a center in my mind.)
“There’s a lot of guys in the league in his position, in the sense of (Russell) Westbrook with (Kevin) Durant leaving [the Oklahoma City Thunder], having to elevate his game and do a number of things to give his team a chance to win,” said Pacers coach Nate McMillan. “You’re seeing with James Harden, and Paul has done that.”
So when will the results be revealed? Unlike last year in late-May, it won’t be until after the Finals in June.