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Breaking Down Why Paul George Is the Definition of a Franchise-Changing Star

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Breaking Down Why Paul George Is the Definition of a Franchise-Changing Star

Paul George played the part of a franchise cornerstone last season, and now the Indiana Pacers are paying him like one.

The five-year extension, worth up to a reported $90 million, has been made official. Indiana's director of media relations, David Benner, even posted a picture of George signing the deal for good measure.

Afterward, George was pictured smiling next to Larry Bird, new contract in hand.

He has every right to smile, too. Nearly 100 million reasons, actually.

The Pacers organization should also be beaming with pride, as it forked over a ton of cash but locked down the reigning Most Improved Player and one of the Association's brightest young stars in the process.

 

Outside Scoring

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Scoring is one aspect of the game that never goes overlooked.

Defense is often heralded as a championship-driving priority, but putting points on the board is what garners the most attention. And George does that well.

If he has a glaring flaw as a scorer, it's his efficiency. He's shooting just 43.1 percent from the floor for his career and converted just 41.9 percent of his field-goal attempts last season. But what George lacks in accuracy, he makes up for in versatility.

More than 40 percent of all his shots (5.9) came from behind the arc last year, and per Hoopdata.com, nearly 61 percent of all his attempts came outside of 16 feet. Baskets won't always fall at the ready when players live on the perimeter and their name isn't Stephen Curry.

The league average for shooting outside of 16 feet last season—three-pointers included—was 36.1 percent; George drilled 37.5 percent of his attempts from 16 feet and beyond. That's with him taking far more shots a night within that range (8.8) than the league average (3.6).

Via infogr.am.

For the type of shots he's hoisting, his efficiency isn't that detrimental an issue. Hell, I wouldn't hesitate to argue that his touch from that range is an actual strength.

Look at how his shooting percentage outside of 16 feet has stacked up against the league average for his career:

Via infogr.am.

George is exceeding the NBA average from the range where a bulk of his shots are coming from. That hardly makes him a liability. 

Think about how that fits into Indiana's (sometimes anemic) offensive scheme as well. The Pacers typically run big, which can often eliminate dribble-penetration opportunities for wings. Deadly outside shooters are imperative within such lineups for their ability to space the floor.

Take a look at this particular offensive set for Indiana where Roy Hibbert starts with his back to the basket:

George is open on the perimeter, but Indy tends to look for the easy inside-two first and the deep ball second. Keeping with that theme, Hibbert dumps the rock off to a cutting George Hill:

Already expecting Hibbert to back down his defender, New Orleans does a great job cutting off Hill's path underneath. Indy's hybrid guard is forced to kick it out to an open Lance Stephenson:

You can see Stephenson is ready to fire one George's way almost immediately. Instead of going up for a shot of his own, he makes the extra pass:

Upon catching the ball, George sets, shoots and drains it:

Spot-up attempts like these aren't necessarily money. Some players can't hit them. George isn't one of them; this wasn't a fluke. He drilled 37.7 percent of his spot-up threes last season, according to Synergy Sports (subscription required).

Considering he knocked down 36.2 percent of his treys overall, his value as a spot-up assassin only increases his importance in what was an unimpressive offensive attack (Indy's 94.7 points per game ranked 23rd).

Jokes can be cracked about his efficiency all day long, but George's outside prowess makes him a commodity the Pacers couldn't afford to lose.

 

On the Ball

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Point forwards are popping up in the NBA like Hollywood wannabes at a nightclub. More traditional forwards like Carmelo Anthony are still revered for what they can do, but there's a growing need for swingmen who can double as incisive, facilitating-inclined scorers.

Among this increasingly popular breed of athletes is George. Indiana didn't have an altruistic floor general last season, relying on an offense-by-committee blueprint instead.

Playing without a point guard allowed (forced, really) George to join the ranks of coveted point forwards alike. His 4.1 assists in 2012-13 were a career high, as were the 19.6 percent of baskets he assisted on while in the game.

Only three other players standing at 6'8" or taller notched at least 17 points, four assists and an assist percentage of 19 last season—Josh Smith, LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Just three years into his career, George has looped himself into the same conversation as some of the league's most versatile offensive talents.

What makes him such an effective playmaker? The fact that he doesn't have to be a playmaker.

Dribble penetration is the foundation for which strong distributors are built upon. Rajon Rondo wouldn't be as lethal a passer if he couldn't get to the rim. LeBron wouldn't be as effective if he didn't attack the paint. The list goes on.

Reaching the rim is often seen as an extension of scoring, because it is. But that ability to score, to reach the rim, opens things up for an entire team.

Feel free to fall in love with this:

George has the ball well beyond the three-point line and is being defended by the lockdown king himself, LeBron. Because he has the size of a forward but the quickness and handle of a point guard, George is able to get around him:

Almost everyone on the Miami Heat converges on George. They know what he's capable of; they know he can take flight or kick it out.

This time George rises for the ferocious slam:

That right there is one of the most underrated parts of George's game. Not the dunking or scoring, but how he's able to do it.

In real time.

We knock his efficiency, and fuss over his turnovers (2.8 per game), but his ability to get around elite defenders changes everything for the Pacers.

He doesn't need to be off the ball to score; he can do it himself. By creating his own offense he draws the attention of a LeBron. Like LeBron, he can double as an oversized point guard as well.

And like LeBron, he's someone an entire offense can be designed around.

 

Defense

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Defense is not as glamorous as a groundbreaking dunk or crafty dime, but it's necessary.

Yet not all franchise-altering stars are known for their defense. 'Melo has made a living off scoring alone, and players like James Harden and Derrick Rose aren't recognized as elite defenders either. George is.

Last season he held opposing small forwards to a PER of 12.3, according to 82games.com, markedly below the league average of 15. By comparison, LeBron allowed small forwards to notch a 12.7 PER. George also allowed just 0.82 points per defensive possession last year, right in line with LeBron's 0.84.

Defense.

Hard numbers don't prove George is better than LeBron. The Chosen One finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting for a reason.

But George is a worthy comparison.

His length and the positions he's tasked with guarding, coupled with the individual results he yields, put him in the same company as The King.

Individual numbers mean nothing, however, if a player's impact isn't more profound. Team defense is more important—players don't win championships on their own, and they don't stop opposing offenses alone. Not even LeBron.

To Indiana's credit, it was one of the best defensive units in the league last season, ranking second in points allowed (90.7) and first in defensive efficiency (99.8).

Below you'll see the number of points per 100 possessions Indy's defense allowed with George on and off the floor during the regular season and playoffs:

Via Infogr.am.

To be sure, George helped make an already elite defense even better. Not all stars can say that. Some can't even say they made their team better defensively at all. The Oklahoma City Thunder actually allowed fewer points with Durant off the floor last season.

That doesn't discredit Durant as a star (or defender), or prove George is better than him. It's just a fact. George excels defensively and offensively. He just does it all.

 

Franchise Value

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

One-dimensional superstars aren't going to get it done. The NBA has evolved, and two-way dominance is more valuable than anything.

Would you build an NBA franchise around Paul George?

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Building around a multifaceted superstar is the goal. It has become increasingly difficult to assemble contenders around Carmelo Anthonys and Dwight Howards, players who pummel the opposition on one end but leave much to be desired on the other.

Like every player in the league, George has his flaws, too. He's not the most careful of ball-handlers, nor can he score as efficiently as a Durant or LeBron. Still only 23, he'll have to improve, and he'll have to adjust.

But he's already in the habit of leaving his mark on both ends of the floor—just like a franchise-changing star should.

 

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