Evaluating the Indiana Pacers: Paul George
As the NBA’s regular season quickly winds down, I’ll take a look at each player on the Indiana Pacers‘ roster — focusing on the season they’ve had to this point and their potential future with the franchise.
Calling Paul George’s third season a breakout year for the 6-foot-8 wing seems like an injustice to him. His skill set and ability has always been there, he just needed the opportunity to completely show it off. Enter Danny Granger’s preseason injury that has essentially cost him the entire season and we get that scenario.
George’s usage rate has spiked this season compared to his first two years in the league (18.2 to 22.7), as he’s taken over the wing scoring duties for the Pacers. All he’s done with his new role is continued to progress. George’s ability to shoot the ball from the outside and operate out of pick-and-rolls isn’t exactly a common trait among players in the league that are of similar height. He’s near 40-percent from three and is setting career-highs in Player Efficiency Rating (17.27), points per 40 minutes (19), and assist rate (17.2).
The best part of this? He’s just 22-years-old.
Part of that youth, though, does show up on the offensive end. George’s turnover rate is the eighth highest mark among all small forwards and that’s mainly due to his indecision when putting the ball on the ground. Improvement here should come with experience.
The next step offensively is to find that in-between game, which is basically improving the mid-range jumper. Many of George’s shots this season have come off of ball screens and isolations on the wing — where he should be effective considering how tall he is. He’s shooting 35-percent from 16-23 feet this season, per Hoopdata.com, up from just 31-percent from the previous season.
George’s move to his natural position at the 3 has also helped his defense. He struggled at times last season defending guards, as his on-ball defense wasn’t quite up to par. His athleticism and length should make him at least an above-average wing defender with the potential to be much more. According to 82games.com, George has held opposing small forwards to a PER mark of 10.8 (15 is seen as average).
George’s overall play rewarded him with a spot on the East’s All-Star roster this season and there’s no telling how high his ceiling is. He’s on a career path similar to Tracy McGrady — although T-Mac was three years younger at this point in their respective careers — and most likely fits the profile of a max contract player for Indiana.
Brandon Curry is an NBA writer for Rant Sports. Follow Brandon on Twitter @ByBrandonCurry