Paul George turned down one option and created a slew of new ones.
George has decided not to exercise his $20.7 million option for next season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, a person with knowledge of the situation said Thursday. George will become an unrestricted free agent on Sunday.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because neither George nor the team has publicly announced his decision. ESPN first reported George’s decision about the option year.
It was not an unexpected move for George, who averaged 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.0 steals for the Thunder this past season. By not opting in to the final year of his existing deal, George opens up an array of possibilities — such as going elsewhere, possibly the Los Angeles Lakers, or signing a new deal with Oklahoma City.
He is also expected to be pursued by the Houston Rockets, who finished this past season with the NBA’s best regular-season record.
George may opt to sign a short-term deal, either with the Thunder or someplace else. He could also command as much as $176 million in a five-year deal if he chooses to stay in Oklahoma City and pair up with Russell Westbrook for years to come.
He will be one of the headline attractions when the free-agent shopping period officially opens at 12:01 a.m. EDT on Sunday, along with LeBron James — assuming that James chooses not to exercise his $35.6 million option for next season with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Thunder have long maintained that they want to keep George, whom they acquired a year ago in a trade with the Indiana Pacers.
“From the day that he arrived, we really made a specific and intentional effort to build a relationship with Paul and his representation built on three things: collaboration, transparency, and trust,” Thunder GM Sam Presti said after the season. “Those tenets were followed throughout the year and continued to be. I felt strongly about the relationship. I feel great about the communication and the honesty, about the way we started the relationship.”
George is a five-time All-Star who just turned 28. For his career between Indiana and Oklahoma City, he’s averaged 18.6 points and 6.2 rebounds while connecting on 38 percent of his tries from 3-point range.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball