ESPN: Thunder star Paul George opts out of contract

Oklahoma City Thunder's Paul George (13) shoots over Cleveland Cavaliers' Jeff Green (32) in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, in Cleveland. The Thunder won 148-124. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George is set to test the free agent waters.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported Thursday morning that George has informed the Thunder he will not pick up his $20.7 million player option for the upcoming season and will become an unrestricted free agent. He had an 11:59 PM ET Friday deadline to officially decline the option.

The move should not come as a surprise to Thunder fans. George had been set to test free agency for some time.

Oklahoma City acquired George in a trade with Indiana a year ago. In his line season with the Thunder, the five-time All-Star averaged 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.

The Thunder remain strong contenders to keep George around. According to multiple reports, George is very interested in staying in OKC and has built a strong bond with star guard Russell Westbrook.

But George has long been linked to his hometown Los Angeles Lakers, a team that is expected to aggressively pursue him when free agency opens on July 1. According to Wojnarowski, the Philadelphia 76ers and Houston Rockets have also shown interest in the forward.

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