There have been quite a few surprises in the NBA this season, one of them being the emergence of Paul George as the best player on the Indiana Pacers. Of course, with Danny Granger injured for the better part of the season, there was an opportunity for someone to step up, but I don’t think many people saw George coming on like this.
Usually when a team’s best player goes down for an extended period of time, the expectation is that they tread water until their savior returns. Not the Pacers. They are in second place in the Eastern Conference and are looking like the only team that can remotely threaten the Miami Heat. George’s stellar play is a huge reason for Indiana remaining one of the best teams in the East despite losing their best player–well, the guy who used to be their best player.
Granger is still the better scorer, but George’s all-around game is superior at this point. He is having a fantastic season. Dare I say it, his stellar play has made Granger very expendable, although his trade value will continue to decrease along with his health.
George played in his first All Star Game, is a possible candidate for Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player and most importantly, he hasn’t let his teammates forget that they are one of the best teams in the NBA. I think David West is still the leader of this team, though. His experience and veteran leadership is invaluable.
But George has developed into Indiana’s best player. He is a better rebounder, passer and defender than Granger and his offensive game is rounding out nicely. He was primarily a catch and shoot guy, but he’s creating his own shot now, putting the ball on the floor and getting to the basket effectively. He also has tremendous athleticism and leaping ability. He is playing so well this season that I’ve decided to forgive him for that horrible “glow in the dark” dunk he did in last year’s dunk contest.
All in all, he has been great this year. He’s improved from 12 pts, five rebs and two assists per game last season to 17 pts, eight rebs and four assists per game so far this season and is definitely one of the rising stars of this league. In two games against the Heat (he is primarily guarded by and guards LeBron James), he averages 22 pts, eight rebs and four assists per game. Not bad at all, my friend.
I’m looking forward to seeing George’s career and skills develop. He’s going to be a phenomenal player for a long time.