Player Analysis: Paul George
May 10, 2011
LOOKING BACK: The highest Indiana draft pick since Erick Dampier in 1996 at No. 10 overall (Jonathan Bender was No. 5 in 1999 but was drafted by Toronto and acquired by the Pacers in August of that year), George had to hang on tightly to survive the rookie roller-coaster. With Brandon Rush out, he opened the season in the rotation. But Rush returned and George headed to the bench for 16 straight games, 15 on the inactive list. One of the key byproducts of the coaching change to Frank Vogel was a bigger role for George, who started the final 19 games and played in the last 53 straight. He was called upon to be more of a scorer with the second unit but was not a primary option as a starter, with Vogel asking George to focus primarily on defense, rebounding and energy and he provided that in large doses -- so much so that the young coach assigned the rookie as the primary defender against league MVP Derrick Rose in the first-round playoff series.
LOOKING AHEAD: George emerged from the 2010-11 firmly entrenched in not only the starting lineup but the team's long-range plans. He'll need to add some muscle to his slender frame during the offseason while tuning up his jump shot and tightening his ballhandling. Though he shoots effortlessly from distance, George made just 29.7 percent from the 3-point line, which could be traced to a stroke that produces a sideways rotation on the ball. He has very active hands on defense and could become one of the league leaders in steals with additional experience and is an effective rebounder, particularly for a shooting guard.
KEY STATS: George averaged 7.3 points and 3.8 rebounds in 19 starts, shooting 34 percent from 3-point range. He averaged 8.0 points and 3.6 rebounds as a reserve, shooting 28 percent from the arc.
CONTRACT STATUS: Signed through the 2011-12 season, with team options for the following two seasons.
OUTLOOK: More than any other player on the roster, George has the imprints of stardom all over his game. He has all the raw materials -- length, athleticism, quickness, hunger and passion for the game -- as well as a positive personality. If he can knock the rough edges off his offensive game, he and Danny Granger could easily become a 40-point combination at the wing positions for many years to come. The team's improvement won't completely hinge on his growth but George certainly is a linchpin for the future of the franchise.