COMMENTARY | The Indiana Pacers entered the 2013 offseason with a few tasks that they needed to accomplish.
Obviously, they needed to improve their bench production from last year, and they also needed to address Paul George's contract situation. They were able to do just that, striking a five-year, $90 million extension with the rising superstar.
George was an Eastern Conference All-Star last season and averaged 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per contest. He showed growing leadership qualities and was able to produce even better numbers during Indiana's playoff run, posting 19.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game.
There are still areas that George needs to improve, but, at just 23 years old, he has all the potential in the world. His ball-handling could certainly use some work, as could his aggressiveness at getting to the rim. He has the talent to score the basketball whenever he wants, but he has to get the killer instinct into his head and actually go do it.
George also needs to work on his post game against smaller defenders. Too often last year he would get great positioning on the block, but would end up fading away for a jumper. If he's able to find his aggressive streak and learn to get around his defender to the rim, it will be nearly impossible to stop him.
The most important aspect of Paul George's game that needs improvement is his play-making ability for his teammates. As we showed earlier, his playoff assist numbers rose to 5.1 per game, and he needs to remain at that number during the regular season this year for the Pacers. Being the clear No. 1 player on a team makes defenses respect you, and it will lead to players helping off to contain you. George needs to keep his head up and look for his teammates to get open with defenses focusing in on him.
One of George's main areas of improvement last season was his 3-point shooting. He made a total of 170 shots from behind the arc and became one of the most dangerous shooters in the Eastern Conference. Assuming he does work on his ability to get to the rim and finish this offseason, defenders will have to make a very tough choice to either defend against the drive or the 3-point shot.
Yet another strength of Paul George is his defensive ability. He has been thought of as one of the NBA's premier perimeter defenders for the last two seasons. Last year, during the Pacers' playoff series against the Miami Heat, he went head to head with LeBron James, and did a great job at slowing the NBA's best player down and making him work for his points. George has extremely quick hands to go along with his long arms, which makes him a threat in the passing lanes.
There are some critics who don't believe that the Pacers should have given Paul George a max contract because of one solid season. If the Pacers hadn't given Paul George a max contract this offseason, then another team would have next offseason. Either way, the Pacers would have to give up a massive deal to keep Paul George in Indianapolis long-term, and they decided that they wanted to get it done sooner rather than later.
There isn't much of a risk in signing George to big money, as he has made it clear that he will put the work in to become the player that Indiana believes he can be. The very simple answer to the question of whether or not the Pacers should have given George this new deal is yes. With Roy Hibbert and Paul George both locked into long-term contracts, the future has never looked brighter for the Indiana Pacers.
Evan Massey lives in Indianapolis and has followed the Pacers for the past 15 years. He has written for many online NBA websites, including Hoops-Nation.com, Pro Football Spot, and Naptown's Finest. Follow Evan on Twitter at @massey_evan.
- Sports & Recreation
- Paul George
- Indiana Pacers