Paul George used the entire regular season as his own personal coming-out party. The third-year wing stepped into the spot vacated by Danny Granger and earned his first All-Star selection in the process.
George’s scoring performance in game one of the Pacers’ first round playoff series wasn’t a typical one for him. He managed to connect on just three attempts from the field and missed all five of the threes he took, but that didn’t deter him from using his athleticism and improving handle to get to the rim and draw fouls in bunches.
“I was just telling myself, ‘Keep attacking,’ ” George told the USA Today. “My mindset is (on the) next play. I just told myself to try to get to the free throw line, stay in attack mode.”
George attempted 18 free-throws on Sunday and knocked in all but one; a promising sign for both the Pacers and George.
Despite George’s breakout season of sorts, he still has a ways to go before reaching true stardom. That journey’s next step will come from increasing his scoring output and getting to the charity stripe will only help the cause.
George’s free throw rates in his first two seasons were already low for a forward with his skill set, and that number took a significant nose dive this season, as he managed just a 21 percent clip. Among the top five scorers in the NBA this season — Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, James Harden and LeBron James — Anthony’s mark was the worst at 34 percent.
Nonetheless, George displayed that he could also leave an impact on the game in multiple other areas. Passing, rebounding, defending, whatever the case may be, he’s becoming a truly complete player for the Pacers. The triple-double on Sunday was just another example of that.
The versatility is starting to show in George’s offensive repertoire, too. He’s been great playing off the ball since he arrived in the league three years ago, and Indiana has continued to use him in those situations. However, the Pacers isolated him on the wing numerous times against Atlanta — similar to those league leaders in scoring mentioned above — showing confidence in his development as a scorer.
It is just one game and this series is nowhere near over, but George passed the test in his first playoff game as the Pacers’ franchise player and took another step towards stardom.
Game two on Tuesday provides the platform for another one. One step at a time.
Brandon Curry is an NBA writer for Rant Sports. Follow Brandon on Twitter @ByBrandonCurry