Indiana Pacers: Why Paul George Is the Next Star NBA Shooting Guard
King George III ruled over Great Britain and Ireland for nearly 60 years during the late-18th and early-19th centuries. During his reign however, there was a little something called the Revolutionary War, and because of that, George III will forever be known as "The King Who Lost America."
There's a new "King George" on the scene these days, one whom eventually may be referred to in history books as "The Man Who Captured the Hearts of America." And, to apply a phrase from Malcolm Gladwell, the 2012-13 NBA season will be the tipping point of his career.
There aren't many certainties in life, but this is one of them: If Indiana Pacers' swingman Paul George doesn't make either an All-Star team or an All-NBA team within the next three or four seasons, then something will have gone terribly wrong.
After only two years in the league, the 22-year-old George is already on the cusp of stardom. That may seem like a bold pronouncement for a player who averaged a mere 12.1 points per game last season, but there's plenty of evidence to explain why the NBA cognoscenti is high on George, who jumped 130 spots in ESPN's NBA Player Rankings this year (from No. 205 to No. 75).
At 6'8", George dwarfs most opposing shooting guards, and because of his pure jumper—George shot 38.5 percent from beyond the arc last season—small forwards are forced to guard the Indiana swingman closely, giving him ample opportunity to attack the basket at a moment's notice.
And "attack" is exactly what George does when he powers to the rim. As the world saw in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest last February, George has very few peers athletically. But what he did at All-Star Weekend pales in comparison to the dunk he threw down during the Nike Festival of Sport tour in China back in August.
George is more than just a dunker and a long-range threat, however. While his 2011-12 Player Efficiency Rating of 16.55 is slightly above the league average, it’s even more impressive when you consider the fact that he averaged only 9.7 shots per night.
His long, lanky frame allows him to disrupt opponents' passing lanes, and the Pacers allowed nearly six fewer points per 100 possessions last season whenever George was on the court. His defensive rebounding rate (18.0) was second-best among shooting guards, and George finished ninth in the league in steals in 2011-12 with more than 1.6 per contest.
"He's a talented weapon at both ends of the floor, as versatile as they come," said Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel in an interview with Pacers.com back in February. "The way he drives the ball and gets to the rim, finishes around the basket, he's got a smooth stroke...It does come easy for him."
George's body language and effortless movement speak volumes: He is one of the smoothest players in the NBA—perhaps almost too smooth.
Aside from a natural progression in his skill set, the main thing holding George back is a lack of aggressiveness. He's arguably the most talented player on the Pacers roster, yet he routinely defers to both Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert. Once George becomes more assertive on offense, he'll average 20 points per game without too much effort.
Vogel preaches more of a team approach in Indiana, but it will be hard for the third-year coach not to feature George in a more prominent role going forward.
Earlier this summer, George was part of the USA Basketball Select Team that scrimmaged against the U.S. Men's National Team in Las Vegas, and the time that he spent scrimmaging against LeBron James and Kevin Durant will prove to be invaluable to his development.
To say that the sky is the limit for George might be selling him a bit short. After all, to quote a Paul Brandt lyric in his Twitter bio ("Don't tell me the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon!"), George has far greater aspirations.
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