Paul George has led the Indiana Pacers to an 8-0 start in the 2013-14 NBA season.
True, George has never been proclaimed NBA MVP, nor has he won an NBA title, but he's getting there.
Nonetheless, being named NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Nov. 11 by averaging 24.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists as well as the Indiana Pacers getting off to an 8-0 start is a great way to make a statement on George's part.
What we're witnessing from the Pacers' 23-year-old franchise player is just a sign of things to come. His evolution has been nothing short of fantastic, proving Larry Bird right all along when he said George is "the real deal" after he signed his five-year max contract extension in September.
Truly, "Paul George" and "NBA superstar" belong in the same sentence.
George Has Been Consistent
It's not to say NBA superstars can never have off nights. As human as they are, it's expected.
However, in the first two weeks of the 2013-14 NBA season, Paul George hasn't had any.
According to Pacers.com's Scott Agness, George, a noted gym rat, put in a tremendous amount of work in the previous offseason. The small forward "improved his conditioning, ball handling and one-on-one isolation plays," per Agness.
And does it ever show.
George hasn't scored fewer than 21 points in the eight games he has played in. What's even more noticeable is how much better he's been shooting the ball: .487 from the field, .383 from three-point distance and .846 from the free-throw line.
Just to emphasize, his figures from 2012-13 were .419, .362 and .807, respectively.
Via @Eliassports Players to score 20 pts in first 8 games of season, all wins: Wilt Chamberlain, Dave Bing, Paul George— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 12, 2013
Agness also points out George (25.1 PPG) ranked third in the entire league in scoring as of Nov. 12, just two notches lower than the Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant (30.1) and the Minnesota Timberwolves' Kevin Love (26.9).
He also has a slight drop-off in assists (from 4.1 last season to 3.3), but his rebounding (7.6 to 7.1), steals (1.8 to 1.6) and blocks (0.6 to 0.3) averages are pretty much on par with one another.
In spite of him turning the ball over (2.8 TPG) as much as he did last year (2.9 TPG), George has indeed taken his game to a higher level. Gone are the days when Pacers fans cringed over one of his subpar performances.
Yes, he will have his off nights. But make no mistake about it, Paul George's arsenal is superstar-worthy.
George Has Come Up Big in Critical Moments
Superstars not only thrive statistically, they also make clutch plays on a consistent basis.
George has had his share during the Pacers' undefeated eight-game surge:
- George nails an 18-foot jumper in the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans on Oct. 30 to knot things up at 76 and help Indiana seize momentum for good. The Pacers trailed by as many as 16 at 52-36, but George's 32 points helped Indy go to 2-0.
- As was the trend for Indiana against Detroit and Chicago, it sputtered in the second quarter. In the Nov. 5 game against the Pistons, however, it was George's 14-point scoring spree in the third period which helped put the Pistons away—Indy's sixth straight win over Detroit. Final score: 99-91.
- George makes a tough 15-foot fadeaway jumper from the right baseline to help stymie a late Brooklyn Nets rally in the fourth quarter to secure the Pacers' seventh win in a row, 96-91.
- In Indiana's eighth win—a 95-79 rout of the Memphis Grizzlies on Nov. 11—George, just like the game against the Pistons, exploded in the third quarter. This time, he scored 13 during that stretch to help Indiana pull away in the second half.
Evan Massey of Yahoo! Sports also offers his own take on George's impressive take-charge attitude, writing in a November 7 article:
While he's not going to get into teammates' faces, he will make sure that he runs the team when he needs to. The Pacers have been looking for a guy like that and it seems that George has decided that he can handle that load on his shoulders.
When the Pacers need a basket late in a close game, they finally have a guy that can go score at any time. Indiana really hasn't had a player capable of doing that since Reggie Miller, unless you want to count Jermaine O'Neal during one or two of his years in Indy.
George has clearly taken charge when the Pacers need it the most, and this is what superstars do. More impressively, three of the four examples cited above were road games. He has warned opponents that they don't want to mess with him.
George Isn't Afraid to Speak Out
Superstars aren't afraid to speak up when needed in order to get results, and George has done just that this season—specifically against Central Division rivals the Chicago Bulls.
Prior to their Nov. 6 game, George challenged Pacers fans on Twitter to fill up Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Apparently, he has had enough of seeing too many Bulls fans in attendance—a true eyesore:
Would love to see an arena full of gold tomorrow night.. Oppose to red/ black and blue/ gold! Let's make it happen Indy!— Paul George (@Paul_George24) November 6, 2013
Once the game's final whistle blew on a 97-80 Pacers victory, George told NBA.com's Steve Aschburner his Pacers aren't putting up with "the little brother" treatment they've been getting from Chicago anymore:
We want to step away from that shadow as the 'little brothers' of this division. Their success is the Michael Jordan era. This is a new age, this is a new team. It's ours till they take it.
George has made it abundantly clear he's taking the Indiana Pacers on his shoulders, and he's not going to let other teams push them around. Not with all the talent that they have and him as their franchise player.
Wrapping Things Up
By virtue of his consistency, ability to come up big at clutch moments of the game and his willingness to speak out, Paul George is now a bona fide NBA superstar.
Is Paul George officially an NBA superstar?
His stats and the Indiana Pacers' gaudy 8-0 record definitely speak for themselves.
Manny Randhawa of Pacers.com reported on Nov. 12 that George, as good as he has become, "is not satisfied yet." George himself says so:
I want to be considered as an elite player in this league. I'm gaining that confidence. I feel I could be the best player if I continue to keep working hard and continue to keep honoring this game.
With this in mind, it wouldn't be too far-fetched to soon see "Paul George," "MVP" and "NBA champion" belonging in the same sentence.