Paul George Only Gave Glimpses of What He Can Do

Apr 15, 2015; Memphis, TN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) handles the ball against Memphis Grizzlies guard Vince Carter (15) during the game at FedExForum. Memphis Grizzlies beat Indiana Pacers 95-83 Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 15, 2015; Memphis, TN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) handles the ball against Memphis Grizzlies guard Vince Carter (15) during the game at FedExForum. Memphis Grizzlies beat Indiana Pacers 95-83 Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports /

The Indiana Pacers season was over two months before it got started when Paul George went down in a Team USA scrimmage. He knew it and so did everyone else. Indiana went 76 games without their franchise player but when he returned there were moments that gave fans hope that he could return to the player he once was.

But he wasn’t there yet, at least not this season. In six games he only tried to dunk the ball three times, making two. He passed up the opportunity to show his power (or lack of) on more than one occasion and settled for a layup. This is very understandable for a player less than a year removed from a broken leg. We weren’t going to see him exploding past defenders and rising to the hoop, at least not yet. It took a few collisions and time for him to show he was getting comfortable with contact and was beginning to trust his body.

He wasn’t flying like he used to but he still managed to score as he rained down 3-pointers better than he ever had in his career. With the Pacers on the verge of a playoff berth Paul George looked like no matter what happened this season, the Pacers were set to be a contender in the future. But that would be for next season, there was still the 2014-15 campaign to worry about.The Pacers just had to beat the Memphis Grizzlies to get into this season’s playoff.

It didn’t happen and the Pacers were reminded just how quickly things could go wrong again. He was carried off the court in the final game and we were left wondering for a short amount of time if maybe he was a shell of his former self and susceptible to injuries. Was he was like Derrick Rose? Extremely talented but couldn’t stay healthy? Everyone held their breath and wondered what might become of George.

Thankfully it was a calf strain and it doesn’t seem it is going to effect the Pacers as they get ready for their 2015-16 campaign. Without context, the injury wouldn’t have ever been as big of a deal, but in the context of Paul George’s long recovery it felt more like the franchise’s life was flashing before its eyes. There is little reason to not expect him to be ready next season and if Indiana wants to be the biggest threat to LeBron James and the rest of the Eastern Conference once again they’ll need their own superstar healthy and ready when next season begins.

Relevant GIF

StanGIF /

Key 2014-15 Stats

  • 13.0 player efficiency rating (PER)
  • 8.8 points per game
  • 3.7 rebounds per game
  • 45.9  eFG%
  • 32.8 usage rate

What Went Right, What Went Wrong

He’s back. It is as simple as that. After waiting all season it was good to see Paul George on the court, even in a diminished capacity. Getting some rust out and some nervousness now instead of later is important to the ongoing recovery process. Something that won’t feel complete until he posterizes a defender and gets back to a more physical style of play.

Outside of that, it looked like Paul George’s 3-point shot was better than ever, hitting 40.9% of them despite shooting more from beyond the arc than he has before in his career. The hope would be all the effort he put in to his shooting during his recovery has paid off on the floor. But with only six games played and going against reserves, I’ll wait to say that has happened.

I wouldn’t exactly say anything went wrong, as these games were more about just playing than how well he performed. The only criticism, while understandable, was that he was very hesitant to deal with contact. He replace much of his mid- and close-range shooting with 3-pointers. That’s just part of the recovery process, he has to walk before he can crawl, so to speak. Nothing other than actual games at full speed and intensity will allow him to get over those mental hurdles. He’s still learning to trust his body again.

Because of this, he was a worse shooter overall this season than in the past. Down from 42.8% to 36.7% from the field. Once he feels confident in traffic, dealing with defenders and not knowing if he’s going to land softly he’ll start shooting closer to the basket and bring the overall percentage up. He has had struggles dealing with contact on layups at times so it isn’t surprising an unconfident George wasn’t shooting well in those tight situations near the basket.

Taking a few bumps here and there got him closer, but we haven’t seen him play absent of doubt just yet.

How He Scores

PG /

The above spiderweb chart shows, via Synergy Sports, what types of possessions lead to his points in 2013-14. (created by Tim Donahue, follow



Um, well that looks weird. Thanks to only playing a handful of games, PG’s spider chart of how he scores is next to useless. Let’s look at his shot chart.

PG /

His 2014-15 shot chart, via Austin Clemens

Well, that wasn’t any help either. His charts are going to be useless with only 6 games played, but we can look at some of the statistics and have a better picture.

The only thing you can really pull from the numbers is he was shooting 3-pointers at a higher rate and making more too. He shot a few more than usual and was more of a spot up shooter this season when he came off the bench. His numbers were up (36% to 40%) from beyond the arc but it is hard to know if that is something he can carry into next year.

Paul George’s Future in Indiana

He’s the future of the franchise as long as he gets back to his old ways. We didn’t get to see the Paul George that could take over games with his speed, explosiveness, and high basketball IQ. We had to watch him make mistakes and his athleticism couldn’t rescue him like it sometimes did when he was healthy.

Paul George was still getting some of the kinks out of his game but Pacers fans should expect a healthier and more effective player when he returns to action in the fall.

Best Moments of the Season

Next: Profiling Potential Pacers Picks: Jerian Grant

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