(Photo: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)

Paul George is Key to Pacers Offensive Success


The one way you could describe Paul George’s 2013-14 season is entertaining. To start out the year, he was phenomenal. George took the NBA by storm, putting himself in the MVP race and had everyone debating whether he was at a superstar level in just his fourth season in the Association.

In the first full month of the season (November), George averaged 23 points per game on 47.2% shooting. He also shot the 3-ball exceptionally well at 40.3%. George looked ready to carry the load offensively while playing lock-down defense and leading his team to a long playoff run, hopefully ending with a trophy and a ring.

Getting back to the Eastern Conference Finals, finally getting past arch rival Miami Heat and playing for a championship was a realistic dream. His numbers fluctuated in the months of December and January, but what came next was something we all never saw coming — but probably should have.

The All-Star break finally arrived in February, a fun extended weekend of contests and games featuring the best players in the league. It offered  a break from the normal NBA schedule. It was a good time, a time where George’s early season success paid off and allowed him to play alongside those great players in the All-Star game. Some thought George was better than every player on the floor aside from LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

Maybe if the break never happened, George and his team would have never lost focus, would have never had to fight with teams that had hovered around .500 mark all season long, and would have never found themselves tied in a first round series with the 8th seed in the conference. Maybe Indiana wouldn’t have “chilled out” the last few months of the season and actually taken every team they played seriously. Maybe, just maybe, all of that wouldn’t have happened, but it did. Some rumors in the media, an NCAA Tournament, and a change of the season and all the sudden the Pacers are fighting a sub-.500 team to keep those Finals aspirations alive, although we look at those aspirations differently than we did before the calender turned to February.

You could blame the Pacers collapse on a lot of different things, and by looking at George’s numbers, he deserves as much of it as anyone on that team aside from maybe Roy Hibbert. George’s superstar-like beginning to the season may have been the worst thing that could have happened to him, because ever since his name got in the mouth of media members, he starting acting as if he was unstoppable. Shooting three after three, thinking it would fall even if the look was horrendous just because his confidence was built up that much. I think he’s realized he’s not unstoppable, he’s not a superstar and that his team needs him, otherwise they’ll turn from a title contender to a first round exit in the playoffs.

Luckily the regular season is behind us now, and George was presented an opportunity to forgot about averages and go help his team in anyway possible. So far, it’s been up and down. Looking at his stats in Indiana’s four playoff games against Atlanta, you can just see how much his struggles really do affect them on offense.

In their postseason opener at home, George scored 24 points on 6-for-18 shooting, while bringing down 10 rebounds. Indiana went on to lose that game.

In Game 2, George scored 27 points on 9-for-16 shooting while recording 10 boards. Indiana won that game.

Now, things shift south to Atlanta, where George scored just 12 points on 3-for-11 shooting, but this time brought down 14 boards. Indiana lost that game.

In Game 4, George scored 24 points on 10-for-18 shooting, with 10 rebounds once again. Indiana won that game.

You see a trend here? When George shoots under 50%, his team is losing, but when he’s shooting over 50%, his team is winning.

Something in the regular season that really hurt his effectiveness was the unnecessary 3-point attempts. At his size of 6’9″, 220 pounds, George is expected to attack the rim if his shot isn’t falling. That was a concern during the regular season as he just kept on settling for jumpers, and when he did drive to the hoop, he couldn’t finish. Around the rim, George shot only 58%, where fellow All-Stars James and Durant were shooting 78 and 77% in that area. During the playoffs, there are some signs of improvement.

George’s shot chart during the playoffs:

Screenshot 2014-04-27 06.11.22

As you can see, George is finishing — for the most part — at the rim, shooting 72.2% at or around the rim. It is promising that George is driving the ball even though his 3-ball has been falling, shooting average or above average behind the arc aside from that left corner spot.

This shot chart shows me that George is starting to understand shooting jumpers or threes isn’t always going to get the job done, and that he is looking for the high-percentage shots more often.

After practice Sunday, George told Scott Agness of Pacers.com “I’ll play 48 [minutes] if coach wants me to. I’m going to try to fight out every thought [of fatigue]. It’s about being tough mentally.”

George is the key that can unlock the door to success for the Pacers, and every mistake he makes, every possession he wastes, it will hurt his team to a point where it could cost them the series. That may be putting a lot of pressure on George, but if he wants to be a superstar and a Hall of Famer like he’s said in the past, he’s going to have to get used to it.

Tags: Indiana Pacers Paul George