The Indiana Pacers spent the first month of the season lamenting the fact that their dear leader would be out for the first half of the season, and then Paul George stepped in and replaced everything that Danny Granger did for the team.
Sure, George is still a bit inefficient offensively, and he needs a nudge in the right direction when it comes to shot selection every now and then, but that's not so different than Granger over the past few seasons.
George's shooting percentages are a bit flat for where you would want your star small forward to be, as he's at 42.4 percent for the season, but that's actually a step up from Granger, who was shooting all of 41 percent a year ago.
The two are actually right in line offensively, at least when comparing George this season to Granger last, the only difference between the two is that George's defensive intensity is a notch above that of Granger.
Granger averaged 18.7 points in 2012, while George is up to 17.6 this year, right around the same range in terms of overall output. On top of it all, Granger's true shooting rate at 54.2 percent compared to George's 53.6 percent is only the slightest advantage.
Elsewhere, George is clearly superior. He's averaging 7.8 rebounds to Granger's five in 2012, four assists to Granger's 1.8, and a combined 2.4 blocks and steals compared to Granger's 0.6.
The biggest difference between the two players? Granger turns 30 next month and George turns 23 in two months.
The choice there seems rather clear-cut.
Then the argument can be made that the true most relied-upon player that the Pacers have is David West.
In reality, that's completely true. West is the most consistent, reliable scorer they have, and he's an incredibly apt defender in the post, meaning he's good for production night after night.
Hell, he even picked up the slack in the beginning of the season, realizing that he was going to have to shoot a ton if the Pacers wanted to keep from completely falling apart. The result was a suffering field goal percentage, but a team that was able to tread water.
He's the main veteran presence on this team that doesn't try to step on anyone's toes and makes his presence felt by being a big, physical brute.
However, that's also what clearly makes this team George's.
West has spent his career playing a role, and doing so happily. Whether it be coming off the bench, being a second, third or fourth option, or taking a team on his back for periods of time, he's done whatever's asked of him.
Meanwhile, George's past three months haven't been him playing in any kind of specified role, it's been him asserting himself to the top of the squad, and the rest of the team embracing him while filling in the holes around.
The most important thing to look at with George is to compare the team's record when he's having a solid game offensively to when he's fallen off the horse.
Indiana is 13-15 when George shoots below 40 percent, and not surprisingly, a very large portion of these games came before the 2013 portion of the schedule, back when both George and the Pacers were struggling.
George definitely has a long way left to go in terms of becoming a true leader of the Pacers, which is why it has been nice having West around in such a large capacity, but his youth gives him plenty of room for improvement both in terms of leading his team and playing the game better.
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