Report: Pacers explored George trade with Celtics, Nuggets, Hawks, 76ers

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USA Today Sports

The Indiana Pacers ultimately stood pat at the trade deadline, but they reportedly did their due diligence leading up to it.

With the threat of Paul George's impending 2018 free agency looming in the background, the Pacers explored trade talks with at least the Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers, and Denver Nuggets, sources told ESPN's Zach Lowe.

However, Lowe notes the Pacers were never quite serious about moving their lone All-Star, as the plan all along was to build a contender around George. Indiana was therefore a potential buyer at the trade deadline, despite not finding a deal to its liking.

Boston and Denver, with their overstocked arsenals of future assets, were previously linked to George at the deadline. The Hawks and 76ers, meanwhile, would be new players in pursuit of the star, and also boast picks and prospects.

Looming large over any potential George trade is the 26-year-old's interest in joining his hometown Los Angeles Lakers. Coughing up significant assets for a one-year rental would be unwise in most cases.

The Pacers might also have the inside track in terms of retaining George for the long haul, thanks to the newly signed Collective Bargaining Agreement. Indiana could offer George significantly more money than any other suitor should he qualify for an All-NBA team before 2018.

The four-time All-Star is averaging 22.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 3.3 assists, with a true shooting percentage of 57.4.