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Analyzing The Anomalous: Paul George vs. Dallas

“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a performance like PG gave us from both ends of the floor.”

This is what Frank Vogel had to say about Paul George: the number one reason he enjoys waking up every morning to coach the Indiana Pacers. With George Hill out indefinitely, George’s development process might have been placed on the entrails of a jet engine. His outside/inside ability is unique, as is his ability to defend multiple positions and seemingly thrive in nearly every aspect of the game. Following the peaks of his career could be one of the nicer things we have to look forward to as NBA fans these next 5-7 years.

Something about last night’s game (apart from the 30 points with 7 threes) makes it feel like we were witness to the baptism of a truly significant basketball player. While people pick holes in Indiana’s brilliantly patient roster building strategy and speculate as to what high profile superstar they’ll either trade for or sign with all their cap space, Paul George is right beneath their noses. After last night’s game, it feels like we’re waiting for the inevitable as opposed to a possibility.

Paul George vs. Dallas. Indiana wins 98-87. George’s numbers: 30 points (11-19 from the floor), 7 three-pointers, 5 steals, 5 assists, 9 rebounds, 0 turnovers in 41 minutes.

  • Before we get into the impressive scoring figures, let’s discuss what gave George his name during last year’s playoff series against Chicago: Defense. Last night he began the game guarding Vince Carter, but his responsibility for the most critical stretches was Jason Terry, one of the most exhausting covers in the entire league. (Terry finished the game 4-11 with 10 points.) It’s subtle imprints like this that George is capable of placing on a basketball game that should make him a multiple All-Star, possessing an MVP candidate type of ceiling.
  • George’s 9 rebound night might be the most subtle 9 rebound performance I’ve witnessed this season. (One came off the game’s first missed Vince Carter jump shot; another off the game’s final missed runner, with the game already decided and nobody really trying; and while he was standing under the basket with his team holding a comfortable lead, Roddy Beaubois gifted George with an air ball.) Still, he managed to place himself in the right position over and over again to grab a ball that has to be taken. In the end, isn’t every defensive rebound the same, just as every 15-footer counts for two points?
  • Holding onto a seven point lead midway through the fourth quarter, George attempted three straight pick and rolls with David West…on a single possession. As the shot clock neared zero, neither Pacer panicked and the result was a wide open mid-range jumper, which, of course, West nailed. The patience and chemistry the two shared on this particular play was a symbiotic work of art.
  • George began the game immediately capitalizing off his own rebound. After pushing a quick outlet to Danny Granger and attacking Dallas in transition, he positioned himself at the three-point line to get the ball back and drain the game’s first basket. This is another example of how he pretty much defines the phrase “two-way player”.
  • When Dallas threw smaller defenders—like Delonte West or Terry—on him, he calmly backed them down, kept his head up, and hit teammates cutting to the basket. It’s wonderful to see a 21-year-old play so even keeled, knowing he could very well be the most athletic player on the court.
  • His one free-throw came on an And-1, when Shawn Marion tried to prevent a breakaway dunk by swiping at the back of George’s jersey. Watching him steal entry passes, jump passing lanes, and routinely go coast to coast for a dunk or layup, George never looks tired. (It’s almost like his ridiculous instinct replaces all that exuded energy.) When the camera zooms in, his lips look pursed instead of spread wide open, gasping for air. Going up against someone like this—someone who plays like his lungs aren’t burning like your own—must create mental bleeding.
  • He averaged 1.58 PPP in this game. For the season he’s posting an astounding 61.6 TS% and a PER that’s higher than David West’s. Against Dallas he was on point in his decision making—for the most part. There were a few instances where the Pacers offense as a whole looked stagnant due to an unwillingness to shoot the ball. In these instances, George was given the ball in difficult situations with the shot clock winding down and the defense knowing he had but a single option. He also showed flashes of serious aggression that ended poorly with George driving to the basket and getting thwarted by a forest of Maverick big men. Overall though, the shot selection he put on display came within the offenses flow, and he almost always passed the ball the first time it came his way before looking at the basket. Two years from now it won’t be like this. Two years from now George won’t be taking any prisoners. Two years from now performances like this might make us cover a yawn.
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