Warriors may have dodged major bullet in failed move for veteran star

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Clippers
Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Clippers / Meg Oliphant/GettyImages

In an attempt to rejuvenate their championship aspirations and in acknowledging the requirement for a second star, the Golden State Warriors made a bold play for 9x All-Star Paul George just prior to the opening of free agency last month.

The Warriors were in, so too was George, but the L.A. Clippers weren't as the 34-year-old's now former team who had to facilitate a trade. So instead, George opted out of his player option for next season, became an unrestricted free agent, and signed a four-year, $211.6 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Golden State Warriors may have dodged a major bullet in Paul George, so long as they can get their hands on Lauri Markkanen

We can't underestimate how close the Warriors came to acquiring George, with the veteran forward confirming his wish to join the franchise, and his excitement in the potential of playing alongside the team's core, during a recent episode of his podcast presented by Wave Sports + Entertainment.

Since the George situation fell over, Golden State's attention has seemingly turned to Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen. Many may view that as simply a backup plan -- that George was option number one and that the front office are now sifting through other less desirable options.

But the truth is that if the Warriors can pry Markkanen out of Danny Ainge and the Jazz grasp at some point this offseason, then missing out on George could be seen as a significant blessing in disguise.

Sure, George is an excellent two-way player that would have fit nicely into the Golden State system, but trading for the 14-year veteran would have required committing over $250 million to him over the next five years. George would have been 37, 38 and 39 years of age by the final three years of that deal -- a major risk for someone with a lengthy injury history.

Rather than committing more expensive long-term salary, the Warriors have pivoted to getting under the second tax apron, allowing them to bring in De'Antony Melton, Kyle Anderson and Buddy Hield in moves they would not have been able to make had they traded for George.

While you'd prefer George over those three players, Golden State will be better off if they can add Markkanen to the mix as well. Not only is he comparable to George as a star-level player, but they'll be a deeper team and in a far better financial position (at least for next season).

It will take a boatload of assets to acquire the 2023 All-Star, but Markkanen is young enough to suggest the franchise can be competitive after Curry fades into the sunset -- something that may have appeared unlikely had they traded for the much older George.

Of course, it remains to be seen if the Warriors can get a Markkanen deal done, but this is far from a backup plan and could prove, in time, that the franchise dodged a bullet in missing out on George.