PG Putting Together One of Best Seasons in Franchise History
Today is a landmark day for the Pacers organization, as Pacers forward Paul George has won the fan vote to start the 2016 All-Star Game on Feb. 14 in Toronto.
It may feel like a mere formality given George’s firm foothold on a starting spot in the various voting updates released over the last few weeks, but George’s election deserves proper celebration.
Think about where he was just a year ago.
Watching games in suits. Shooting lots of jumpers. Breaking the internet with uncontested dunks that were an important measuring stick in his recovery, but a far cry from his past heights.
Now look at him, back and better than ever.
George’s comeback is one of the best stories in the NBA this year. But make no mistake, his All-Star election wasn’t some sort of sympathy vote. Paul George absolutely earned a starting spot in Toronto.
The 25-year-old forward has quite simply been one of the best players in the Eastern Conference.
He won the conference Player of the Month award for games played in October and November. He’s averaging more points per game than any player in the East not named LeBron James.
George was a no-brainer choice to start the All-Star Game. But yet, there seems to be a sentiment out there that George’s season has been in some ways disappointing, a notion that is – in no uncertain terms – absolutely and utterly absurd.
Yes, George’s statistics have come down to earth after his ethereal start to the season.
He averaged an outrageous 29.5 points per game in November (a higher scoring average than any Pacers player has had over an entire season in NBA history), but has “only” averaged a hair under 22 points per game over the last two months.
After shooting 47.5 percent from the field in November, George’s field goal percentage dipped to .371 in December, though he has pushed it back above 40 percent in January.
Meanwhile, George’s turnovers have remained consistent, right around four per game over the entire season.
Still, George’s statistical drop-off is being mis-categorized as a “slump” instead of evidence of just how other-worldly his play was at the start of the season.
Because of how well he played in November, George has seen more and more double-teams and defensive schemes designed around stopping him. He has also dealt with understandable fatigue going through the rigors of a full NBA schedule after sitting out all but the final six games of last season.
But even though he hasn’t maintained a level of play that he should have never been expected to maintain over the course of an 82-game grind, George’s numbers remain excellent.
Sorry, “excellent” is an understatement. Let’s go with “superb.”
George is currently averaging 23.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 2.0 steals per game. Individually, each of those stats illustrates an aspect of George’s all-around talent. But collectively, those numbers put George in rarified company.
Over the course of NBA history, there have only been seven instances in which a player averaged at least 23 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals over the course of an entire season.
Julius Erving did it twice. Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook each have done it once. That’s the whole list.
Paul George is putting together one of the greatest statistical seasons this franchise has ever seen. And lest we forget, he’s doing all of this barely a year removed from breaking his leg, undergoing major surgery, and enduring months on end of a grueling rehab process.
If George can do all of this now, just imagine what the future holds for him. After all, he’s still only 25.
At 25, George will start an All-Star Game for the second time in his career in a few weeks. You know how many other players in franchise history have been voted to start an All-Star Game?
Reggie Miller, for all of his accolades, was voted in as a starter just once, in the 1994-95 season. Jermaine O’Neal was voted to start the midseason showcase three times (2002-03, 2003-04, and 2005-06).
If he keeps his current pace up, George should more than double O’Neal’s mark. He is good enough and young enough to one day surpass Miller and Mel Daniels and all the rest as the greatest Pacers player ever.
So go ahead and celebrate this day and this season, Pacers fans. Paul George is putting together one heckuva year.
by Wheat Hotchkiss