COMMENTARY | The Indiana Pacers are sitting pretty at 10-1 right now and are currently the best team in the NBA.
They have a complete team that has been very well-documented over the last couple years, but Paul George has been stepping in a big way already this season. He has been scoring at a very high level, but is also being the playmaker for his teammates and defensive stopper that we have all grown accustomed to seeing.
Through the first 11 games of this season, Paul George is averaging 24.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game. Those numbers are a huge upgrade from what he did all of last season, especially toward the beginning of the year. He has been transformed from an above-average player to a true superstar and one of the most polarizing players in the NBA in just one offseason -- and rightfully so.
Not only is he putting up big averages in those three categories listed above, but he is also averaging 1.4 steals per game, which shows just how active he is on the defensive side of the basketball. Defense is what sets Paul George apart from quite a few of the up-and-coming superstars in the NBA today. He takes pride in his defense and actually got his start in the NBA due to the fact that he was an above-average perimeter defender. Quite often, young players will stop putting forth as much effort on the defensive side of the ball when they become elite scorers, but not so with Paul George.
George has added quite a bit to his offensive repertoire this season, with a much-improved mid-range game and ability to get to the rim. His three-point shooting percentage is at 35.7% so far this year and that number is very solid for the number of attempts that he has put up.
The most impressive addition to his offensive game is his ability to knock down the mid-range jumper with great consistency. He has shown the ability to pull up off the dribble, fall away, and post up from mid-range and that has been a major key to his increased scoring numbers. Not only is he shooting the basketball better, his aggressiveness at getting to the rim and drawing fouls has been increased as well.
Aggressiveness is something that Paul George admitted was an issue at times last season, but he has vowed that lack of aggression will not be a problem this year. He has worked all offseason on becoming the No. 1 scoring option when the Pacers need a basket, and that has shown up already a few times this year. George has already had three 30-point scoring outings through Indiana's first 11 games.
Perhaps the most impressive upgrade in Paul George's game from last year to this year has been his ability to be a playmaker. His ball-handling has always had a question mark surrounding it, but this year that cannot be said. He has been able to take care of the basketball in key situations and make plays to put his teammates in better positions to score as well. Whether it be a great pass or being able to take care of the basketball against pressure, he has looked much better this year.
Everything has fallen into place for Paul George this season and he is without question an MVP candidate early on this year. Obviously, things may change as the season goes on, but, for right now, he has his name very much in the discussion among the NBA's best. Having a superstar in town is a dream come true for many Pacers fans and with his long-term contract he signed in the offseason, he won't be going anywhere anytime soon.
Evan Massey lives in Indianapolis and has followed the Indiana Pacers for the past 16 years. He has written for many sports websites including ProSportsExtra.com, Hoops-Nation.com, ProFootballSpot.com, and NaptownsFinest.com. Follow Evan on Twitter at @massey_evan.
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