December 6, 2013 by Ell and Mike Sports
SF Paul George (Pacers): The Newest Superstar in the League
High School/College Career
It’s crazy to know that Paul George didn’t start playing organized basketball until he was a freshman in high school. By his senior year, he was the leader on the team and a good all around SF, but he was not highly ranked in the state of California despite winning the championship. George was a 3-star recruit listed as mid-level SF prospect and he committed and de-committed to Santa Clara University and Pepperdine University, but coaches advised him to keep his options open. He later chose Fresno State University over bigger schools like Georgetown and Penn State due to the opportunity for more playing time.
George played two seasons at Fresno State putting up stats in all areas: points, assists, rebounds, steals, and even occasional blocks. As the leader of the team at Fresno, he made highlight plays in his 1st year and lit up the WAC Conference ranking at or near the top in most statistical categories. This led to his recognition in his 2nd year as one of the most entertaining players in the west by Sports Illustrated. However, George could not lead Fresno to the WAC championship falling short both years. In 2008-2009 (freshman), George played 34/34games and averaged 14.3pts, 6.2rebs, 1.9assists, and 1.7steals. In 2009-2010 (sophomore), George played 29/29 games and averaged 16.8pts, 7.2rebs, 3.0assists, and 2.2steals showing good improvement in all areas. George had a small frame, but a long wingspan to make up for it and the talent was obvious on both ends of the floor.
Draft/Rookie Season 2010-2011
Paul George was drafted #10 overall by the Pacers in 2010 as a SF/SG thanks to the success of SF Danny Granger (24ppg at the time) and the need for an upgrade at the wing with Dahntay Jones and Brandon Rush sharing duties. George was compared to Granger often and the Pacers hoped that he could find similar success as a good inside/outside player who improved each year. George started 19/61 games in his rookie year with 7.8pts, 3.7rebs, 1.1assists, and 1.0steals. He was a streaky shooter, but had a career high of 23pts in his rookie season on 5/6 threes against the Wizards along with 6rebs and 4assists. Proving to be the good all-around player and inside/outside player he was in college, George helped the Pacers make it to the playoffs for the 1st time in 5 years. George proved to be a very aggressive perimeter defender with a knack for stealing the ball. He was 1 of 2 rookies to be in the starting lineup of a roster in the playoffs (SG Landry Fields (NY) the other). Although he struggled horribly with his streaky shooting in the playoffs, George did a good job with steals, blocks, and rebounds (playing without the ball) in the playoffs as a solid sidekick to Granger with his scoring ability and all-around game. The Pacers loss to the Bulls in 5 games, but played tough behind a strong defensive effort by George who guarded Derrick Rose showing his athleticism. This set the new era of Pacers basketball, in the fact, that they would now be a perennial playoff team again with the addition of George.
Season 2 2011-2012
In the year of the lockout shortened year, George played in 66/66 games with his best game against Mavs with 30pts including (7) 3-pointers, 9rebs, 5assists, 5steals, and 1 block. He was selected to the Slam Dunk Contest and the Rising Stars Challenge for the 2012 All-Star Game where he shined and really made himself a more popular (well-known) player in the league. George averaged 12.1pts, 5.6rebs, 2.4assists, and 1.6steals while Increasing his 3-point percentage and free throws, despite more minutes played. The Pacers loss in the 2nd round of the playoffs (4-2) to the Heat after beating the Magic, who were without C Dwight Howard, (4-1) in the 1st round. George played better in the playoffs than his rookie year, but struggled to perform to his regular season output on offense. However, he continued to provide good perimeter and post defense proving to be the best perimeter on the team even in the playoffs. Despite an improved, 3-point shot he struggled mightily from 3 in the playoffs, but the league took notice of his improvement.
Season 3 2012-2013
This was the Breakout Season for Paul George as he played in 79/79 games and was selected to play in 2013 All-Star game (1st selection) while putting up 17pts, 3rebs, 4assists in an East loss; proving that he could play with the best in the game. In his best game, he scored 37pts, 4rebs, 4assists, 1 steal against the Hornets including a (9) 3-pointers (franchise record passing Hall of Fame SG Reggie Miller for most in a game).A knee injury limited star SF Danny Granger to only 5 games giving way for George to take over as the star for a team in need of someone to step up. George has his 1st triple double vs. the Bobcats with 23pts 12rebs 12assists 2steals showing off his growing skills as an all-around player, improving even with the spotlight on him. He was the only player that season to have with 140 steals and 50blks and he averaged 17.3pts, 7.6rebs, 4.1assists, 1.8 steals on the season.
George won the Most Improved Player Award and was named NBA All-Defensive 2nd Team, showing his growth as a player this season when the Pacers need him most. However, he played even better in the playoffs averaging 19.2pts, 7.4rebs, 5.1assists, and 1.3steals, despite being the go to scorer this time around. Paul George recorded his 1st playoffs triple-double vs. the Hawks game 1 of playoffs in 2013 with 23pts, 11rebs, and 12assists (1st triple-double in the playoffs for the Pacers since PG Mark Jackson 98’). After the Pacers eliminated the Hawks and Knicks behind George as the #1 option, George almost led them past the Heat, but fell short in game 7 as the Heat dominated. George almost led them to a game 1 victory, but gave up a game winning layup to Lebron in OT with the seconds dwindling (this proved to be the difference). However, George struggled on his 3-pointers again in the playoffs and it if he could have made a few more who knows what could have happened. During the East Conference Finals against the Heat, George was often compared to Hall of Fame SF Scottie Pippen and this seems to be a good comparison with his perimeter defense skills and ability to produce on the offensive end from all spots on the floor. Sure, George has a ways to go to reach that level, but if he continues along this pace the opportunity is definitely there with no one to overshadow him to stunt his growth.
Beginning of Season 4 2013-2014 (Current)
The Pacers lead the league with a 17-2 start behind their star Paul George absolutely lighting up the scoreboard and filling up the stat sheet as he averages 24.6 pts, 5.9 rebs, 3.4 assists, and 2.2steals, including an improved 3pts stroke. George just signed a new deal for 5yr, $90mil deal as the unquestioned star and leader of the team for the long term. George has shown even more growth in his 4th season so far and should be fun to watch as he is continuing to get even better as a two-way play while filling up the stat sheets.
Could this be the Pacers championship year? This could ultimately come down to the Pacers vs. Heat or George vs. LeBron once again as the teams have the best records in the East and the best chemistry, but it will be up to George to take down King James. Although, George is already well-respected in most circles as a star, but it will always take winning a championship to hush all critics.