Where do we begin with Paul George? Most Improved Player of the Year. All NBA Third Team Selection. 8th in Defensive Player of the Year. All Star Selection. Wing defender that stepped up strong. Came alive after not scoring at Golden State. Carried the load for this Pacers team when they needed it. Showed signs of what is turning into a fantastic all around player. That’s a good start to just explain a bit about Paul George’s season.
He started off the season a bit slow as he was trying to step into the role of another scoring threat on the floor. I wouldn’t say he was trying to fill Danny Granger’s shoes, but obviously that was pretty much what he was trying to do. He wanted to come out and do what he could for the Pacers. That game in Golden State really jumped this whole bloom into what George would start showing. He didn’t score a point that night, came home from that game, put up 500 shots the next morning, and then got ready for the game in Chicago. I think that game in Chicago really was the turning point for Paul George’s season.
That evening he put together 34 points and was carrying the Pacers to that win. I believe that win jump started the Pacers into that division contention as well. Once they were able to get a game up on Chicago, they were mostly up in the division the rest of the way. George for the rest of December was always in double figures in scoring, and even captured some double doubles. His rebounding is an area that saw lots of improvement as well. Highlighted by 17 rebounds early in the season. He would also capture a triple double just to show that he was coming full circle in his game.
That momentum of play carried through the playoffs as well, where he started off in the first game with a triple double against the Atlanta Hawks. Defensively, he as huge as well. He had to guard the best player in each round, and played about as well as you could against those guys. Josh Smith was the first battle, and Smith never looked that comfortable going against George. Then came Carmelo Anthony, who had some moments of good things, but George stepped up on his offensive end as well. The Pacers end up winning that series, and then face the task of playing the Miami Heat.
This is where we really saw what Paul George was made of as he went to battle against Lebron James. No one is going to “win” that battle, but there were times when George put up that defensive wall as strong as he could against the top player in the game. It wasn’t until game seven that George fell flat. George had played so well, and I do believe the wear and tear of the season finally wore him down as he only got 7 points on 2-9 shooting. The Pacers all struggled in that game, but when one of your top players is struggling, it’s going to be a tough night. Not the best time for Paul George to finally slow down, but that long season and plenty of minutes played a huge part in it.
So the question will be going into next season, where does George go? I believe he’s got to work on his passing game first. He did get some good assists here and there, but he’s got to be careful about the passes. Sometimes, he’ll miss just an easy pass into the post. That can’t happen for someone of his caliber. The jump shot is there, so just getting more consistent with that would be an area to work on. But the biggest thing could be the mental game of being the top guy. Teams will be gunning for George now that they’ve seen what he’s turning into. So George will always have to be mentally ready for that. It has to start at the beginning of the season, and continue throughout. I think the Pacers as a team will have high expectations, and George as a player will have even higher ones. He’ll be expected to carry this team, and that’s going to be the area where I want to see the most growth for someone who is becoming the top Pacer.