By: Louis Prejean
“I’ve never played the game with any hesitancy. That’s the reason I’m probably in this cast. I play my hardest, I give my all, I leave it all on the floor. Not one moment do I expect to get injured or feel limited on the court. Although I’m not looking at that right now I won’t be hesitant when I come back.”
That is what Paul George said before he returned to NBA action after a gruesome right leg injury suffered while playing for Team USA. Paul George plays his heart out on both ends of the floor and that has shown throughout his young career with the Indiana Pacers. George has emerged as one of the best two-way players in the NBA today. He can score 30 points while locking down the other team’s best offensive weapon on any given night. When George injured his leg everyone’s initial thought was doubt. People doubted if Paul George could play in the NBA again. They doubted that if he could play again, then he can play at the All-Star level he was before the injury.
A little over one year after surgery on his right leg, Paul George is not just back, he is better than he has ever been.
The Indiana Pacers missed the playoffs last season after reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in the previous two seasons. This season, the Pacers are looking like a playoff team in the improved East and it is all thanks to Paul George.
Paul George’s goal before the season started was to win the Most Valuable Player award and while Stephen Curry may have something to say about that, there is no denying George is reaching contention for the award. He is posting career numbers in his sixth season as a pro. Let’s dive into the numbers and just how great Paul George has been in the first ten games of the 2015-16 NBA season.
The Pacers are 6-5 and have won six out of their last eight games. George is averaging career-highs in points, assists, and rebounds per game. He is putting up 24.3 points, 8.8. rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game. All of these numbers and success on the offensive end for Paul George can be credited to his move to the power forward position. George was not exactly open to the idea of switching to power forward, but now he is reaping the benefits by scoring against slower forwards. Aside from speed, his outside shooting ability presents a problem for any power forward guarding him. Paul George is shooting 38% from the three-point line. He is also shooting 47% from a distance of 16 feet and greater, which makes life harder for whoever is defending Paul George.
One question about Paul George when he entered this season was how aggressive would he be on offense. So far this season, George is attempting less dunks as shots, as his percentage of dunk attempts is at 0.024%. His previous low was 0.055%. That statistic may indicate a less-aggressive Paul George, but his shot attempts per game are at 18.2 and he is shooting over seven free throws per game. Both of those numbers are career-highs. Want to know another important career-high? His Player Efficiency Rating is 23.5, whereas his previous highest PER was 20.1 back in 2013.
Now we know how amazing Paul George has been on the offensive side of the ball, but what about his defense? He is one of the best two-way players in the NBA, which is rare to see. Paul George is averaging over one steal per game. His ability to jump in the passing lanes and cause havoc on defense generates fastbreak opportunities for the Indiana Pacers.
The team as a whole is 5th in opponent’s points per game and they are only allowing teams to score 96.1 points per game on them. When Paul George is on the floor, the Pacers allow just 99 points per 100 possessions. Those defensive numbers are the best since Indiana made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. We all remember how tough that defense was back in 2013.
Paul George knows how to impact a basketball game on the defensive end just as much as he does on the offensive end. George is certainly inspiring the Pacers to return their identity as a tough defensive team, while being the number one scoring option.
Paul George is willing to put the Indiana Pacers on his back and lead them to playoff contention. The Pacers sit 7th in the Eastern Conference standings at this point in the 2015-16 season. Paul George can and will continue his career year. There is no doubt about that. He has the heart to do so and one bad injury has shown not to stop Paul George. The Pacers are right back in the playoff run. As for Paul George, he is not just back, he is better than he has ever been.