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Paul George Is Brilliant and Frustrating

The Indiana Pacers forward has been dominant on the court against the Cavaliers. But is George a leader on-court? And how committed to Indiana is he?

By Charles ManiegoPublished 7 years ago 4 min read
USA Today/The Big Lead

On Thursday night the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Indiana Pacers, 119–114. Cleveland took a 3–0 series lead, with LeBron James strapping the Cavaliers on his back, overcoming a 25-point deficit. LeBron has never (EVER) lost a first round series, so the Cavaliers’ second round spot is essentially a foregone conclusion. But it’ll be only a couple of days before some made up Cavs drama is stirred up in basketball media, right?

Facing the Cavaliers’ deficit is the Indiana Pacers. Larry Bird essentially built his team for a playoff run this season, acquiring veterans Al Jefferson, Thaddeus Young and Jeff Teague over the summer. The revival of Indiana Lance Stephenson occurred late in the year, adding yet another familiar veteran option. Obviously the Pacers’ centerpiece is Paul George. He’s scored 29, 32 and 36 points in the first round series respectively, with near triple doubles in games two and three. Only Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and James Harden are ahead of George in postseason scoring. George has undoubtedly been the second best player in the series across both teams, only behind LeBron.

George is essentially a middle class Kevin Durant stylistically. He has the ability to shoot off the bounce and create like a guard. He can out-long and out-run defenders when slicing to the cup. Synergy Sports ranks him in the 92nd percentile of all pick and roll ball handlers, ahead of some of the NBA’s best point guards as a small forward. He’s 6’10” — essentially the perfect example of the 2010’s explosion of long dudes that play like guards. George can take over a game for Indiana. Defensively, he can use his physical gifts to switch onto both guards and big men alike.

PG-13 exists in the second tier of great NBA players, what I call the “wow, that’s going to be a really tough matchup” tier. The first tier is the “these guys are going to change everything when they got on the court” tier.

Despite George’s superstar status, he hasn’t been able to win as the true leader. His on-court brilliance is undeniable — but his off-court leadership may be in question. The past two seasons the Pacers have been the seventh seed in the playoffs, despite a weak Eastern Conference. This season, with a new coach and a deeper roster Indiana barely made the playoffs. In previous years, strong veteran leadership from David West and a strong team dynamic buoyed Indiana to playoff success. Like many second-tier superstars, George is struggling to lead a team.

George’s comments recently have drawn quite a bit of ire during this series. Previously, George has been notoriously open and honest in interviews. In last year’s Olympics, he called Australia’s squad “dirty.” (I mean, any team that has Matthew Dellavedova will at least be called ‘scrappy.’) After this season’s trade deadline, George expressed displeasure after not being included in team trade discussions. At the end of the season, he was fined $25k for his own, more vulgar “Take that for Data” rant after an ejection against the Philadelphia 76ers.

But in this first round series, George has looked (and sounded) visibly frustrated. He rather infamously called out C.J. Miles for taking the game-deciding shot. He told Lance Stephenson to control himself (like that would work). Several people have played body language doctor. Some are claiming that George is as good as gone.

Despite Paul George’s best effort, the Pacers simply don’t have the talent to compete against the defending champion Cavaliers. Nor do they have the leadership to take them there, either. George’s brash comments are reminiscent of two superstars: Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Both Kobe and LeBron were/are notoriously open to the media, willing to unleash criticism with a microphone nearby.

But unfortunately, George isn’t on that level. He’s brilliant, yes. His comments, which he described as motivating, can be frustrating as well. But he isn’t even in the stratosphere of Bryant and James. He’s in his seventh season and will continue to be a top-20 player in the league for at least the next half-decade. He likely won’t be a top 5 player, though. And that’s fine!

With the first round series against the Cavaliers seemingly decided, the Pacers will shift to offseason mode very soon. The hot button issue will be George’s future with Indiana. If his recent play has shown it, George may need another superstar to succeed. Building a team of solid veterans around him didn’t lead to much success. Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated suggested that George would be best as a “1-B option” for a team. Myles Turner will be a solid player down the line, but may not be a superstar. The Pacers could be stuck on the playoff treadmill for the next few years.

Yes, Paul George to the Lakers seems like a more realistic option with every Pacers game. And the Boston Celtics still have enough assets to make a run for him as well (they passed on him once during this year’s trade deadline).

Paul George is one of the best players in basketball. Despite his team’s struggles against the almighty Cavaliers, George has cemented his spot as a top-tier NBA player. But his leadership — and his commitment to the Pacers — have seemingly wavered this post season. In a tough series, things get ugly. That’s when true feelings come out. Paul George’s Indiana career may be reaching its end — or may be on the rise again.


About the Creator

Charles Maniego

Basketball, Society, Science & Medicine. Unbalanced.🍦🔬🏀🤼 ✈🤷🤙🏽


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