Scaletta’s Summer Top 100 is a ranking of returning NBA players. For a full explanation of our methodology, read our intro.
Paul George woke NBA Twitter up when they heard his comments to IndyStar’s Nate Taylor:
“Everything was just free flow, and we’re still trying to figure that out,” George said. “We’ve been so used to a set or calling of plays, and now we’re getting that freedom. I think that’s going to take some time, but once we get it, we could easily be a 115-point team a night.”
Easily? According to Basketball-Reference.com, the last time a team did that was the 1991-92 Golden State Warriors, though, last year’s Warriors did hit 114.9. But that makes the “easily” claim just a bit hyperbolic. But we get it. The Pacers are going to be a very different team this year than the defensive-oriented squad they were under Frank Vogel. How much does that impact PG13’s numbers?
Paul George is almost at the peak of his career, but his numbers can go up with a bit more pace. He was on the court for about 71 possessions per game last season. The Pacers had a pace of 96.6 according to Basketball-Reference’s measure (which can be a bit different from NBA.com’s but that’s where we got the possessions). If the Pacers’ pace goes up to 100 (which would have tied the Kings last year for highest in the league), it would only mean about a four percent increase in George’s numbers, so maybe an extra point and a half a rebound. Nothing monumental.
George also already had a usage of 30.4 percent. So it’s not likely he’s going to get a lot more touches there.
If the Pacers are going to score 115 a night, then that means either the rest of the team is going to have pick it up, or he’s going to have to get a lot more efficient–or both. Mostly, it’s not going to happen because there’s not enough realistic there to make it realistic. Geroge’s numbers aren’t likely to change much.
However, the Pacers could improve and be a lot better offensively, and if they do, he’ll be the most important player on it. That could be the difference between moving up into the league’s top-five.
Goerge has a history of falling off as the season progresses. Witness his career splits by month (minus October because of the small sample size).
Paul George's career splits aren't that surprising. pic.twitter.com/zA97UnC2fN
— Kelly Scaletta (@KellyScaletta) October 14, 2016
Even the bump that comes in February is probably due to the All-Star Game rest. George needs to learn to sustain himself through the league, whatever that takes, diet, conditioning, rest. It’s pretty clear the season wears on him. That’s probably the biggest thing that keeps him from climbing higher in the top 10 and the reason he’s at his floor. And if the Pacers are pushing harder, does that hurt George later in the season even more?
George is a pseudo point forward who is playing in an era dominated by LeBron James, so his all-around gets overlooked. He is one of only nine players in history with 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists per 100 possessions. Only two of those players also have made at least two threes, which presents an intriguing player comparison:
|Per 100 Possessions||Shooting|
George is a well-round offensive player and reasonably efficient. But that becomes problematic as the season progresses, as well.
Paul Geroge is good enough to run an offense. There are valid questions if he can run an elite offense. And there are more valid questions whether he can run an elite offense for an entire season and postseason. He’ll need to do that to move up.
George is one of the best wing defenders in the NBA. While he’s not quite on the level of Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James, he’s right in the next tier, and perhaps the head of that back. His defensive numbers weren’t as spectacular last year as they’ve in the past, but we’re going to give him a pass on that for a few reasons. He was still getting back into shape after the leg injury. The whole defensive scheme changed. A big chunk of the team also did. So numbers that reflect defense aren’t going to treat him well.
But there are a very few wing players who are bona fide stoppers when you need one the most, and George is one of them.