Paul George – the road to his MVP level play

Paul Clifton Anthony George, born May 2, 1990, in Palmdale, California, is a five-time NBA All-Star, has four All-NBA Team selections and a three-time member of the NBA All-Defensive Team. He came a very long way since then. After he started playing basketball for Knight High School, he chose to play college basketball at Fresno State, where he balled for 2 years, then being drafted by the Indiana Pacers with the 10th overall pick in 2010.

Paul was named the NBA Most Improved Player in 2013, and was selected as an All-Star for the first time in that year as well. But sadly, something horrific was about to happen right in the next year, 2014, when he was training in the summer with the USA national team for the FIBA Basketball World Cup. He was running back in defense after his team made a turnover for a chase-down block, and landed very awkwardly in the process, suffering a broken leg. He was out for most of the 2014-15 season and a lot of people around the league were asking themselves if he will be the same player after he will come back from the injury, and many thought he wouldn’t.

But, after he emerged a kind of speedy recovery, Paul George came back to be an All-Star again in 2016 and in that same year, he also won the Olympic gold medal. That’s a hell of a comeback.  After all this happening while he was a Pacer, his time there came to an end in the next year, and he was traded. A lot of rumors said that he will return home because he want to play for his “home team”, the Los Angeles Lakers, but he ended with the Oklahoma City Thunder in a deal that involved both Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

He left Indianapolis after 6 years, and his best one was that when he battled with Lebron James and the Miami Heat in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals, averaging 19,2 PPG, 7,4 RPG and 5,1 APG. Indiana lost in seven games in a series that even Dwyane Wade said after some years that the Pacers should have won it and he doesn’t understand how they managed to win it. That was his highest peak as a member of that organization.

In his first year with OKC, the trio formed by him, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony had some pressure being put on them, because many thought that they will perform pretty well given their roster at that moment. George averaged 21,9 PPG, 5,7 RPG and 3,3 APG on 43 FG% in the 2017-18 season while he was learning his exact role in the team, trying to co-exist with Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony, as all of them needed the ball in their hands in order to play at their highest level. They finished 4th in the West with a record of 48 with 34, but, as some of us expected before that season, it didn’t go very well, the chemistry wasn’t quite there and because of that they have been eliminated in the first round of the 2018 play-offs by the Utah Jazz, led by Donovan Mitchell, a rookie that year.

That loss was kind of embarrassing for them, because the expectancies were a lot higher coming into that season. In the off-season, the Thunder organization agreed to part ways with Carmelo Anthony, even if Melo opted in the final year of his contract with them. He was traded to Atlanta Hawks, then the Hawks sent him to Houston.

After all that, rumors about Paul George going to LA emerged again and many thought that this year he will go there for sure, given the fact that they didn’t seem to click together in Oklahoma City. But, in spite of all the controversy, he chose to sign a 4-year/ $137M contract with them, and some said that this decision had something to do with Lebron going to the Lakers and Paul not really wanting to play with him. Without Anthony, the team had now more freedom of moving the ball and there was one isolation kind of player less in the starting line-up, because, even if Carmelo’s role for the Thunder was more of a catch-and-shoot role, we all know that he is a player that loves to play ISO, and that’s the main reason why they didn’t get along as a team.

This season, they started to heat up, though, currently being the 3rd seed in the West with 27 and 18, and Paul George is one of the main reasons of their success. George is having a career season so far, averaging 26,7 PPG, 8 RPG, 4 APG to go along with 2,3 steals-per-game, being the 2nd in the league in steals, behind Russell Westbrook, who has 2,5. All those categories mentioned above are representing a career-high for him, and this can be seen in his game, because he is playing at a very high level this season, and consistency, a thing that was not there last season, is a key factor for him now.

He is helping his team both offensively and defensively, he’s shooting the three when needed, penetrate, gets some stops at the other end and, as we could see this season, he even won some games by taking and making the last shot. He has 2 game-winner until now in this season, against Brooklyn Nets, a game in which he scored 47 points, and one against the 76’ers, in a crazy last minute ending of the game, where he made a 4-point play in order to win the match, having a total of 31 points and a game-changing steal at the end of it.

The defensive part of his game is what makes him special, because you can be good offensively, and there are a lot of good players in offense, but defense is winning you games, as they say, and a few great players are willing to play very intense at the other end of the floor. Paul George leads the league in total steals with 98, leads the league in deflected balls with 161 and, perhaps most importantly, he can be every coach’s favorite because he also leads the NBA in loose balls recovered with 95. Nobody else is even close to that number. He also leads the league in points off of turnovers, with 215. This means that he always plays offense, even when he’s playing defense.

As we can see here, he shoots above his average almost from everywhere on the court, whether it is a drive, a mid-range, or a 3-pointer. He seems that he is doing everything for his team this season, including taking over in the 4th quarters, a thing that was handled by Russ in the past. His ceiling is higher and higher and we can say that he is reaching his prime of his career if he continues at this pace. Paul is now the 7th in the MVP ladder, but he has the potential to be the most valuable player of the league in the future.

Below, you have some highlights from this season:

Andrei Dilean,

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