Paul George Has Been the Best Player in the NBA Playoffs – DeMar DeRozan Has Been the Worst

Has anyone in the postseason played better than Paul George? And has anyone in the postseason played worse than DeMar DeRozan?

There are two pressing questions from the 2016 NBA playoffs that involve the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors.

Has anyone in the postseason played better than Paul George? And has anyone in the postseason played worse than DeMar DeRozan?

Let’s start with the second one first.

Through six games, DeMar DeRozan has made just 34-of-106 (32.1%) shot attempts, including a putrid 2-of-13 (15.4%) from behind the arc.

DeRozan has helped himself out a bit by making 25-of-30 (83.3%) free-throw attempts, but even this is below expectations. He got to the line 8.4 times per game in the regular season but is only making 5.0 trips in the postseason.

He has had one really nice game, scoring 34 points on 10-of-22 shooting in Toronto’s enormous Game 5 comeback win. Even in that matchup there were times in which he struggled, but he had a fantastic second quarter.

But the numbers overall are ugly, and just consider how poorly he has shot in the other games if you take out Game 5.

I mean, just look at this:

DeMar DeRozan

In DeMar’s defense, it hasn’t been simply a matter of him struggling and failing to step up his game in the postseason.

It’s a lot of that. An absolute, enormous amount of that.

But the Pacers defense has been phenomenal. While plenty of fans have been critical of Frank Vogel — all year, but especially after the team’s Game 5 meltdown — there is one thing he does better than almost any human alive: coach defense.

This was a transition year for the Pacers in which Vogel lost both of the big-men anchors who formed the foundation of his previous defensive system. Even so, the coach managed to lead a team that had the third-best defense in the NBA in 2015-16, with 100.2 points allowed per 100 possessions, via NBA.com.

They have been even better in the playoffs, allowing the Raptors to score just 98.5 points per 100 possessions. In the Pacers’ three wins, they have held the opposition to 90 or fewer points.

It certainly helps to have Paul George to throw at DeMar. He absolutely confounded and embarrassed DeMar in Game 1, and little has changed since then. Paul George has been one of the best defenders in the world since his second year in the league, and he’s playing as good as ever right now.

George Hill and the team’s overall approach have also been holding Kyle Lowry in check. Although not as dramatically as DeRozan, the All-Star point guard’s numbers have fallen off almost across the board in this series.

Lowry has been a lot more effective than his back-court mate since he has continued to lead a hard-to-handle pick and roll even while his shooting has abandoned him. But the numbers are so bad that it is a wonder that the Raptors’ season isn’t already over.

Kyle Lowry 2

There is, of course, one other All-Star in the series.

And Paul George has arguably not just been the best player in these six games — but the best-performing player in the entire NBA postseason so far. By the numbers, it’s actually hard to make a case for anyone else.

Paul George is leading the playoffs in points per game (27.5), total points (165), and free throws made (55). He is also tops in Player Efficiency Rating, posting a Michael Jordan-esque 29.8.

To understand how good that is, first realize that an average PER is 15.0. Then consider this: In NBA history, only nine players have ever posted a PER over 30.0 for a full regular season. Their names are: Jordan, Wilt, Shaq, LeBron, Steph, McGrady, Wade, David Robinson, and Anthony Davis. Paul George has produced at that level in six playoff games so far in 2016.

PG’s shooting accuracy, no matter how you measure it, is also way above his regular season total. His true-shooting percentage of 63.2% is fifth-best in the playoffs so far among qualified perimeter players, per Basketball-Reference, behind just Kawhi Leonard (71.5%), George Hill (68.3%), Luol Deng (67.8%), and Kyle Korver (76.3%).

Paul George 2

As an aside: Take a look at the second name on that list. Like Vogel, George Hill is the source of much scorn among Pacers fans. But while you can argue with his levels of aggression, nobody can say he isn’t playing well — on both ends. There is no debating the fact that Lowry’s struggles are due in large part to the play of George Hill. His length, proper positioning, and general ability to run Vogel’s defensive game plan are all making life hard for Lowry.

We shouldn’t be surprised that Paul George is playing well in the playoffs. Paul George has always played at his best in the postseason — and the numbers all prove this.

But the degree to which he has stepped up in this year’s playoffs is just absurd. This is the best basketball he has ever played, and it is happening while the Raptors All-Stars are not even producing like starter-level NBA players.

Obviously, that can all change in one night in a Game 7.

Nobody is going to remember your numbers from Games 1 through 6 if you come out and win a series with great play — or lose one by laying an egg.

But if the first six games in this series have any predictive value on what will happen tonight, then Pacers fans should be happy that their team has — by far — the best player in this series. And the entire postseason.