Paul George's Great Passing Against the Blazers


I’ve mentioned a few times that last night’s win over the Portland Trailblazers might have been the best passing game I’ve seen Paul George ever have. Above is some video.

The first three dishes shown are obviously excellent: the rise to shoot then dish to George Hill at the rim; the two-handed overhead bounce pass to a cutting Ian Mahinmi; the over-the-top entry to David West. Each led directly to an easy two points.

The others are a little more subtle but also help illustrate his growth as a decision maker. Because that is often what is more important as a passer than anything. We oooh and aaahhh at the the highlight assists (like the one George threw to Mahinmi), but even if you’re Jason Kidd, those types of finishes are few and far between. What is more important is consistently making the right read and furthering the offense’s advantage over the defense.

That’s what we see in the rest of the video. Some of George’s passes don’t even lead to made buckets. But they all show the decisiveness that he plays with at his best. It’s all instinctual. There is no dilly-dallying. He just sees a teammate who is in a position to exploit the opponent and delivers a quick, accurate pass that allows his teammate to get off a good shot.

The second-to-last dish (at the 1:13 mark) is the best illustration of Paul’s growth as a creator.

He starts the play on the weakside wing and makes a flex cut to the opposite block, where he receives an entry pass while being guarded by Nic Batum. He catches a little far out on the baseline and doesn’t seem to have a lot going for him. In some games this season, he likely would have reverse-pivoted to face up, put the ball on the floor, tried to make a move, and settled for a step-back jumper. Here, instead, he reads the defense, notices David West putting a savvy screen on Lance Stephenson’s man and delivers an on-point kickout from the block to the top of the key. And he doesn’t just toss the ball out; he actually leads Lance into the location behind the arc where he has the most open space to get off the shot. He also puts enough touch on the pass to allow Stephenson to slide to his left, square his body to the rim and catch a soft delivery in rhythm.

Lance misses the shot. But this is an instance where the process outweighs the result.

And if you’re only into results, just re-watch those highlights at the beginning. The first pass, to Hill, put Indiana up by 7 with just four minutes left. It was probably the most important possession of the game. It also encapsulated the good and the bad we have seen from Paul this year: he dribbles the ball off his foot (the bad) but regathers and makes the biggest play of the night (the good).

We have seen Paul George dunk and we have seen Paul George shoot. Last night, we saw him deliver the types of passes that make a tall, athletic wing with quickness and a jumper into a deadly creator.

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