Another Accolade for Indiana's Rising Star

by Wheat Hotchkiss
Pacers.com Writer/Editor
@Wheat_Hotchkiss

The accolades keep rolling in for Paul George.

The Pacers’ star forward was named to the All-NBA Third Team for the second consecutive season on Wednesday.

As he has done every year since entering the league in the fall of 2010, George displayed marked improvement in 2013-14.

George’s scoring jumped over four points per game, from 17.4 last season to 21.7 this year. His shooting percentages improved across the board, most notably at the free throw line, where he connected on 86.4 percent of his attempts after making 80.7 percent last season.

On the defensive end, George continued to establish himself as one of (if not the) best perimeter defenders in the NBA. His 1.89 steals per game ranked fifth in the league. He displayed a rare ability to guard players at several positions and was named to the All-Defensive First Team on Monday.

George was twice named Eastern Conference Player of the Week during the 2013-14 season and was dubbed Player of the Month in November, an honor that was never bestowed upon Reggie Miller during his Hall of Fame career. In February, George appeared in his second straight All-Star Game and was elected to start the contest for the first time in his career, receiving more fan votes than any player not named LeBron James or Kevin Durant.

Like the Pacers as a whole, George did struggle at times after the All-Star break – his scoring and shooting percentages took a noticeable dip during the month of March. But on the whole, George’s 2013-14 season was a tremendous success.

With increased success comes increased expectations. George’s profile has soared nationally, as he’s scored multiple national endorsement deals with companies like Gatorade and Papa John’s.

He’s also dealt with ever-increasing media attention and taken it in stride. After each and every home game, George sat in uniform at his locker and graciously answered question after question from a throng of reporters before heading to the shower.

George’s rising star is all the more remarkable when you consider that just a few years ago, he was an unheralded recruit on his way to Fresno State. He has already reached considerable heights. The question now is how much higher can he go?

In just his fourth NBA season, George is already in elite company in the annals of Pacers history. Only three other Pacers players have earned All-NBA honors: Reggie Miller (1995, ’96, and ’98), Jermaine O’Neal (2002, ’03, and ’04), and Ron Artest (’04). O'Neal made the second team in 2004 — the only time a Pacers player achieved that honor.

George, who didn’t turn 24 until May 2, figures to have plenty of years to add to his already impressive resume and perhaps even to become the first player in franchise history to make the All-NBA First Team.

Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird referred to George as “our future” at his season wrap-up press conference on Monday. The Pacers have proven to be a legitimate title contender the past couple of seasons and figure to remain so for at least a couple more. But with George, that window could turn out to be considerably longer.

The future is bright in Indiana.

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