Coming into this season, the small forward position was one of the most talented and important positions in the league today. The best player in the world—LeBron James—primarily plays that position, and Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony top off an elite category where few other players in the league could even dream of getting into.
Right now, there's no doubt in anybody's mind that the two best players remaining in the Eastern Conference both play the same position.
At the beginning of the season, Paul George was a solid player, but he was never recognized as an elite small forward. Nobody put him in the same category as the likes of Durant or Anthony.
As the season progressed, George was continuing to improve and develop his skills until he had an opportunity to show it. Now, he has the perfect chance to show the world his talent and potential, as there's nothing more exciting than being matched up against the best player in the world.
Currently, George may be the fourth-best small forward in the league. I would put him behind James, Durant and even Anthony because they have proven to be consistently dominant over a longer stretch of time.
One successful playoff breakout campaign will probably not put George ahead of those three aforementioned players, but what if the Pacers oust the Heat in Game 7?
Will this be the first page of George's legacy?
Let's take a look at some of George's individual stats during the regular season (per Basketball Reference).
Scoring-wise, George is great at creating his own shot and can score form anywhere on the floor. One of the more alarming aspects of his game is his declining field-goal percentage, which has decreased every year since he has entered the league.
However, that doesn't mean he's become a worse shooter. It just means that defenses are starting to respect his offensive game more, and his shot selection still needs some work.
His 0.145 win shares per 48 minutes aren't spectacular, and it trails Anthony by a respectable margin (0.184). However, his 6.3 defensive win shares this season is the most on the entire Pacers team, which illustrates how great of a defender George is because the Pacers are the best defensive team in the league.
On top of winning the Most Improved Player award this season, George significantly increased his points, rebounds and assists averages across the board and he's developing into one of the most dangerous two-way threats in the game.
During the playoffs, George's averages have stayed relatively even, but he increased his production in this series against the Miami Heat. He's putting up 21.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 5.3 APG on an incredible 50-percent shooting while going head-to-head with LeBron James.
Although making the Finals would ultimately be a team accomplishment for the Pacers, it will certainly bring George some more recognition as a superstar in this league. At the end of the day, great players will be judged by how far they can lead their team, and George has been the engine behind the Pacers' success all year long.