By George?! Don't Expect Too Much

It’s rare for people – especially in the sports world – to agree about anything, but there seems to be a consensus about the Indiana Pacers developing amongst both  the most rabid fans and the most impartial observers: The Pacers are good, but not good enough. They will make the playoffs and be a tough out, but they’re not considered serious title contenders. And with a roster lacking high-level assets playing in a small-market with no history of desirability for free agents, it seems clear that any significant improvement must come from within.

That’s where Paul George comes in. Anyone who watches him play can see the potential and upside that ooze out of every pore. While the Pacers have other youngsters (Roy Hibbert & George Hill) who look to be developing into very good players, George is the only one who seems to have true star potential. George also spent part of this summer on the USA Select Team practicing against the U.S. Olympians. Mike Wells has recently reported that George seems to be playing with a new found intensity in offseason pick-up games. It certainly seems like the 2012-13 season could be a breakout season for the young wing.

With all this bouncing around in my head, I wanted to see what the historical precedent looked like for 22-year-old wing players entering their 3rd NBA season after playing significant minutes during their sophomore campaign. Did these guys typically show a lot of improvement? Would there even be much data to look at? Here’s what I discovered:

Surprisingly, there were 20 players who fit into the category mentioned above: Magic Johnson, James Harden, Monta Ellis, John Drew, Nicholas Batum, Danilo Gallinari, Adrian Dantley, Eric Gordon, Mike Miller, Tim Thomas, Rudy Gay, Joe Johnson, Corey Magette, Jamal Crawford, Wilson Chandler, Tyreke Evans, Metta World Peace, DeMar Derozan, Michael Beasley, and Larry Hughes.

After compiling this list of players, I noted the change in a number of important per-36 statistics between their second and third seasons. I then averaged the differences to see what we should expect George’s numbers to look like this year. The overwhelming result of all this statistical tabulation follows:

Don’t expect too much.

Of all the statistics I tracked only assists and points showed a significant per-36 improvement. You can expect the assist numbers to increase by about 0.2 and the points to increase by about 0.5. The other statistics I looked at did not show an increase or decrease of more than 0.1 in any category.

There were, of course, a few singularities who should give us reason for hope.  Eric Gordon, James Harden, Monta Ellis, and Joe Johnson showed significant improvements during their third seasons. Gordon posted the highest increase in points at 5.4, while Harden, Ellis, and Johnson saw significant increases in FG% (3-5%) and points (2-3 pts).

Of course, none of this  applies specifically to Paul George so it’s probably best to take it with the proverbial grain of salt. But if you’re expecting to see Paul George at the all-star game doing anything other than dunking, you might want to go take a cold shower.


Tags: The Evolution Of Paul George

  • Sam

    I look for Paul George’s career to be similar to that of Rudy Gay:
    Become a high-flying All Star who never really takes it to that next (superstar) level

    Everything is in place for him to become a superstar except that killer instinct, in my opinion

  • Hoosier

    Haven’t the Pacers built a team around a group of good young players that are improving and want to be Pacers? Isn’t that a great way to fill the seats? And fill the bench? Winning Works! The Pacers are building it. Players will come. It’s Indiana Basketball. Legends Made Here!!!

  • Hoosier

    Karl Malone and Gary Payton agree with me!

  •!/Msquared122 NexSerenade (Mike)

    I agree with the Rudy Gay assessment. I always thought PG would be somewhere in the Tracy McGrady/Andre Iguodala/Rudy Gay. Some have mentioned George Gervin, but I won’t dare go there.

    Call me crazy, but I think that PG has better intangibles than Eric Gordon, Monta Ellis, or Joe Johnson combined, and better tangibles than those guys as well as James Harden.

    Remember, Danny Granger was 24 when he first broke 14 ppg. PG still has two or three seasons left before the majority of that potential is used up IMO.

  • Jack

    so we lack “high-level assets,” huh? ..i disagree

  • 2hot4TV!!!

    What’s with writing a new article? We didn’t earn or deserve this.

  • Hoosier

    I hope the Pacers are as intense about defending the home-court in this regular season as they seemed to be about improving in this off-season. The Pacers did a good job of beating the teams they should have beat at home last year. Hopefully, they will do a great job of defending The House against the better teams this year.

  • Hoosier

    Maybe someone mis-remembered that West, Granger, and Hibbert have been All-Stars, Hibbert is quickly becoming a top Center, and Paul George is exactly the kind of “Low-Level Asset” that every team in the League is drooling over, and trying to find. I hate the word “Superstar”. What does it mean? Dan Marino? Barry Bonds? Allen Iverson? Any rings in that group? Could the Pacers use a player with the skills and personality of Reggie Miller? Of Course! Is there a team in the League, right now, that has that kind of player? No. He was one of a kind. How many true superstars are there in the league, today? How many have rings? The Pacers can win by doing just what they are doing, building from within. Or, maybe the Pacers need to trade Paul George for the Superstar Eric “Ow! My Ankle” Gordon to be a contender?

  • stray dawg

    Ha! I heard Dwight Howard is out for two weeks of training camp cause someone hurt his feelings!

  • AMFinocchi

    Let’s consider another important factor: PG has played put of his natural position since he came here. And he will until he goes away (hope not), or the staff stablish Danny Granger as a sixth man. Paul doesn’t seems to be a pure shooter. He looks a lot better driving to the basket than shooting threes. He can shoot threes, but it’s not were he shines. I saw PG kinda ‘tired’ in a lot of games last season. Let’s see now that he has a lot of minutes and more time in between the games.

    Another thing, we don’t have a superstar. Ok. Tell that to the 2004 Pistons

  • Realist

    Chris Kaman injured in first Mavs practice.

    Roy Hibbert re-sign = correct (in case there was any doubt)

  • Joe B

    Occasionally PG gets called out for lack of development on the blog…something that baffles me. He made significant improvements from his rookie to sophomore year, especially in 3pt% and steals, while seeing expected growth in all other categories due to increased playing time. This post does not question PG, but tells those who have been high on George for the past two years to expect similar incremental bumps in performance rather than superstar numbers, and that is fair.

  • dwain

    All 82 Pacers Games on TV From Heraldbulletin.comon September 27, 2012

    For the first time in franchise history, all 82 Indiana Pacers regular season games will be televised this season as Fox Sports Indiana will carry 77 of those games along with two preseason games…

    Continue Reading on »

  • Jack

    Quinn Buckner is the best TV basketball commentator in the world

  • IU Fan

    PG’s defensive contributions were highly overlooked, in my opinion, during the playoffs last season. The team was substantially worse off when he was in foul trouble.

    Jack – I completely agree that Quinn Buckner is top-of-the-line

    PG may have some compeition this year though…..check out this write-up on Sam Young

  • JRehmel

    I’m not sure your statistical analysis actually means anything, one way or the other. 1) what do you mean by “significant improvement”. My guess is that you didn’t run an ANOVA or regression, either of which would show if any change in numbers was the result of something other than chance (i.e., significant difference). 2) This group of players:

    Magic Johnson, James Harden, Monta Ellis, John Drew, Nicholas Batum, Danilo Gallinari, Adrian Dantley, Eric Gordon, Mike Miller, Tim Thomas, Rudy Gay, Joe Johnson, Corey Magette, Jamal Crawford, Wilson Chandler, Tyreke Evans, Metta World Peace, DeMar Derozan, Michael Beasley, and Larry Hughes…

    encompasses a range of positions and contexts such that particular averaged statistics are not going to be very meaningful. For example, averaging the stats of a 6’2” guard, such as Monta Ellis, and a power forward like Michael Beasley will give you numbers but i’m not sure what it means or that it’s useful for predicting anything about Paul George’s season. Furthermore, some of these players are decades removed which further limits their utility in terms of making comparisons.

    What is absolutely mind boggling though is that you say something like this: here is a collection of shooting guards who are relatively close in terms of the role they play one their respective teams and stature, who made significant gains in their 3rd year but we should probably ignore that. It’s much more likely, albeit arbitrarily so, that he doesn’t significantly improve.

    I wouldn’t say either group is any better at predicting how George will perform, there is simply no known model for controlling for variables in such a way that is predicatively valid. Most 3rd year players don’t improve significantly so we can cast our vote there and feel confident but don’t mistake that for actually knowing what’s going on.

  • Rocky

    Haha.. Quinn Buckner is pitiful.. and I am as big of an IU homer as there is… but he is awful

  • Jordan

    The only player worth noting that I saw on your list was Magic Johnson. Anything short of that will not a championship team make.

    The pacers are doing this San Antonio/Detroit thing, but at some point soon they need to trade all their future draft picks and get a first round overall star out of the draft.

  • Jeremy Comstock

    IU Fan – I’ve liked Sam Young since he was playing for Pitt., but if he’s legitimately competing with Paul George for anyting basketball related, the Pacers are in trouble.

    JRehmel – Your criticism is incredibly accurate and is appreciated. My overall findings were wonderfully inconclusive and my methodology was far from methodical. However, the point I was trying to get across is that there’s not a historical precedent for 22-year-old 3rd year wing players making a huge statistical jump. For what it’s worth (which may not be much) I think that point is justified.

  • Realist

    From ESPN 5-on-5, including one Jared Wade. 2/5 answered Indy to:

    5. Which East playoff team will move to elite status?

    Berrios: If Derrick Rose were healthy, my pick would be the Bulls. The Pacers could make a lot of progress. They re-signed Roy Hibbert and George Hill and improved their bench. Indiana, which was the No. 3 seed in the East and took the Heat to six games before bowing out in the conference semis, has a good shot.

    Wade: This could also be the Nets, but I’ll say the Pacers. Last season, their lack of national exposure and star power left many thinking that the 3-seed they earned was a byproduct of a weak Eastern Conference. But they were flat-out good and are returning a starting lineup that was off-the-charts productive last season. The bench remains shaky, but they will win 55 games and worry Miami again in the playoffs.

    Jared’s response has left me salivating for more (read: any) 8p9s articles, preferably ones that talk about how awesome we’re going to be this year. Come on! We’re dyin’ here.

  • Jack

    How is Quinn Buckner awful, Rocky?? Anyone who knows the game of basketball should at least appreciate that Quinn has a deep understanding of the game. He’s flat out knowledgeable. And do you have a problem with his voice or something? Cause I’d say he has a great commentating voice. I’m honestly clueless as to why anyone would say he’s an awful commentator. You ever watch those pre- or post-game interviews where they have him, that lady (who is it?), and Austin Croshere sitting on stools and talking? The lady is always flustered and messing up, Austin is just plain hard to look at sometimes, and then there’s calm, cool, collected Quinny. He’s the shit.

  • stray dawg

    The Pacers have always had good commentators for TV and Radio – Slick, Bake, Boyle, Quinn, Kellogg, etc. That’s a staunch group with some good history with the club. I love all those guys. Good voices behind good memories! If we have to go to “The Best” argument, though, I got Tom Carnegie. Hands Down! Voice of Indiana High School Basketball and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He was a true Hoosier Legend, worthy of a statue. Big One. Limestone.

  • Hoosier

    Reggie Miller: 1st year – 10ppg; 2nd year – 16ppg; 3rd year – 24ppg. And Playoffs 15 of the next 16 years. Why did he not make your list? That’s pretty good third year improvement for a Player, right? Montana?

  • Indyboy

    don’t forget that a better assessment of a player is not their age, but rather their mileage and experience with NBA games. Believe me, I love PG as much as the next guy…I think he has the body and the skill to break through and become a household name in this league. But I feel like there is always something special about players that are true potential superstars. Nothing that can be measured, but rather the feeling that “hey, this guy’s got it.” Watch Kyrie Irving last season. Watch Anthony Davis this summer. You can tell that even though they might not average 25-6-6 now, you think that there might be that chance in the future. I don’t know if I see it out of Paul. A great kid who understands his place on the team but if your Pacers championship hopes cling on Paul, i think its time to think again.

  • jesse

    Nothing useful to add, I just really can’t wait for basketball season to start.

  • Rob

    1. Judging how good a guy is based upon his scoring average is what causes all sorts of idiotic decision in the N.B.A.

    2. Paul George is far and away the most valuable asset of the Pacers right now. Not necessarily the best player, but arguably so.

    3. Age IS very important. Athletes peak about the age of 24 or 25. Even Lebron and Kobe were not above average players at first. The fact that George is much younger than, for example, Hibbert and Hill, means he is far more likely to significantly improve.

    4. PG may well be consistently underrated, like Iggy. The kid can play some ball.

  • Jack

    Sorry. Paul George isn’t our most valuable asset right now. He might be our 4th or 5th. With time, that number should get closer to 1st.

  • Lake Trout

    Paul George is the best defender on the Pacers and is quickly becoming one of the top defenders in the League. Maybe that has hurt his offensive developement? He has been thrown into the fire his first two years, guarding D. Rose and D. Wade in the playoffs. Those guys burn everybody. It’s good experience for PG, though. He may not be the Pacers most valuable player, just yet. He definitely could be very soon. He is 22! Give him a chance to develop his game. Lebron is the best player in the League. Argue if you must. How long did it take him? Nine Years? To get a Ring? That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for the “Find Me a Superstar” philosophy. The Pacers are well built. They can win. They are STAUNCH!

  • Jack

    people don’t realize how good we are. that’s fine with me

  • dwain

    wow can feel this season coming on fast! media day interviews,live training camp peeks…Pacers Pacers….coming to a screen/arena near u soon!

    Darren sure looked solid in Berlin, way to go DC….i want to ask the others if perhaps the problem this “small” market has is really “no superstars” because to me this is a starting rotation of 5 really great stars already? They just play really well and unselfishly together and if u take that as a starting point how will u be able to see a movement to 5 superstars playing really well together? are we not seeing the forrest for the trees here in Indy?

  • Realist

    I am a pretty huge Dahntay Jones homer, and I was fine with the Jones out / Green in move.

    But I still don’t get the DC out, Augustin in move. I mean I get *why* they did it, re the contracts etc, but I just hope it doesn’t come back to bite us.

    • Josh Boeke

      Augustin’s assist rate kills Collisons, but I agree, overall he seems to be a downgrade at the position (and they’re paying him more to boot).

  • Jack

    just watched Winning Time again. holy shit do i want the Pacers to get a title. Bring on basketball! football kinda sucks

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  • Brandon Keller