In case you missed it, the Indiana Pacers’ Paul George had a breakout season in 2012-13. Not only did his individual stats go through the roof, but George led his Pacers’ team to within a game of the NBA Finals. Indiana won tough series’ in the Eastern Conference, knocking off the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks before falling to the eventual NBA Champion Miami Heat in seven games.
With a team so close to winning it all, the Pacers have reportedly offered him a max deal. Go ahead and cue the questions from doubters.
Here’s the thing – the skeptics will have some reasonable ammunition. Ironically, George saved some of his worst games of the playoffs for that Heat series. In the pivotal Game 3, he floundered his way through a 3-10 shooting performance and came back the next game shooting only 4-10. In the two contests (which were both home games, by the way), he also had a total of ten turnovers. In Game 7, with his team needing him the most, George shriveled up in under the spotlight, shooting only 2-9 for a total of seven points – more than ten below his season average. Part of those struggles can certainly be attributed to LeBron James guarding George, but he was still a disappointment at times to be sure.
In addition, the forward had a massive turnover problem with the added defensive intensity that comes with the postseason. His turnovers increased from 1.8 to 2.9 per contest this season, but that’s to be expected with a young player that saw more playing time. However, he turned the ball over even more in the playoffs, as his average per game rose to 3.9.
Also, consider this – he was even uglier in the final two series against the Heat and Knicks, averaging a whopping 4.5 per game. The Pacers can’t afford to have him turn the ball over that much if he’s to be the focal point of the team.
Despite that, though, the contract offer is the right one.
For starters, overall, George wasn’t bad in that Miami series. He rebounded less, but scored more than he had averaged in the first two series and at 48%, shot markedly better. He had his bad nights against the Heat, but who doesn’t?
Next, George is only 23. He’s only been in the league for three seasons and has gotten better each one. His career 43% shooting percentage as a small forward certainly doesn’t scream ‘max talent’, but with his penchant for scoring, he’s got the tools to become a superstar.
George also does more than score. He averaged career-highs in assists (4.1) and rebounds (7.6) per game last year and is developing a nice all-around game. The way he fit in to help the Pacers in some playoff games was more than noticeable. In the series-winning Game 6 against the Hawks, he scored only four points. His seven rebounds and seven assists were big, though, and Indiana pulled out the win. He also added 17 rebounds and 15 assists in those three poor offensive showings against the Heat that were previously mentioned.
If you’re still not convinced, just know that George is an above average defender, too. He’s guarded some of the league’s best offensive players including Kobe and LeBron and was an All-Defensive Second Team player last season. He averaged nearly two steals and a block per game this season and is an excellent two-way player.
Lastly, it’s also vitally important that the Pacers keep their team together. They’re one of the few teams that can contend with Miami as they proved in the Eastern Conference Finals last season and their size gives teams fits. Why would you disrupt that type of chemistry? Along with David West and Danny Granger, the Pacers have one of the best collection of forwards in the league.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to avoid giving one to a 23-year-old that could be the face of the Pacers for years to come.