Indiana Pacers: Predicting Paul George's Ceiling
Paul George has entered this season by storm. He went from an average role-playing swingman to one of the top small forwards in the league. George has proved he has massive potential and may become one of the most dominant two-way forces in the NBA in the near future—if he isn't already.
But with all players, there's only a certain amount of productivity that they can reach.
Whether it's self-inflicting forces or team circumstances, some players just never reach that level of play that they should be able to reach.
With that being said, what is George's ceiling?
For comparison, I will discuss players who play similar positions as George and use them as a reference to determine George's ultimate ceiling.
Earlier in his career, Deng was a versatile small forward who could score in a variety of ways and play suffocating individual defense on anybody from point guard to power forward.
Deng did lack a reliable three-point shot early in his career, but most of his game resembled George's game right now. He was a good player who wasn't great enough to be called the face of the franchise that the Chicago Bulls wanted to build around.
George is currently in a similar situation as a younger Deng. He's on a good team with other good players, so it's possible he will never develop into the type of player that he can potentially become.
With capable players like Roy Hibbert, David West and the soon-to-return Danny Granger, George might not ever grab the spotlight.
This year, he broke out and made the All-Star team, but is he in the same situation as his teammate Hibbert? Is George just having a good year, but can be overshadowed by another good player on his team in the future?
If that's the case, he may never be able to establish himself as a legitimate superstar because of the circumstances of the Indiana Pacers.
The Luol Deng ceiling would be where George is still a valuable contributor to his team, but is unable to push himself to the next level, largely because of the other good players around him.
Rudy Gay is the prime example of a player who peaked at an early age and never showed much improvement afterwards.
After the trade that sent Pau Gasol to the Los Angeles Lakers during Gay's second season, he became the undisputed best player and was expected to have a career season with a then-mediocre Memphis Grizzlies squad.
However, Gay was never able to grasp his potential superstar status. He never even led the Grizzlies to the playoffs until the 2010-11 season, where he (coincidentally) got injured before his team made a playoff push.
The Rudy Gay ceiling describes a player who is given all of the opportunities necessary to put a franchise on his back, but is just unable to excel to the next level or reach that superstar status. Gay was given a chance to be "the man" on the team, but it seemed like he just never wanted to be.
Is the George we see now going to be the same George five years from now? Will he remain a fringe All-Star who puts up similar numbers for the following seasons, just like Gay? Will the Pacers then grow tired of George's inability to take his game to the next level and ship him out?
Hopefully not, but it all depends on George's development and demeanor down the line.
Kevin Durant's career is the blueprint of what happens when everything works perfectly and all of the pieces fit in place.
He was drafted to a team that gave him all the opportunity in the world to succeed. Then he got some good players around him, but still stood out and made himself known as one of the best players in the league.
Finally, he led his team to a Finals appearance, and he's still improving everyday as well.
The Kevin Durant ceiling (if there actually is one) would be the maximum potential George could reach. This would mean George must put up a superstar caliber stat line, record multiple All-Star nods and All-NBA team selections and salvage the opportunity to carry his team on his back.
Realistically, I believe George will end up somewhere in between Rudy Gay and Kevin Durant. I can't see him becoming the glue guy that every good team needs—like Luol Deng right now—because that isn't his role for the Pacers in the future.
George will definitely keep improving after this season, but it's unlikely that he will reach the level of Durant. For one, George is surrounded by former All-Star veterans who are very well capable of leading the Pacers as well. George may improve a bit, but it's hard to see him having a Durant-like impact on the game.
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