Coach: Breaking Down Paul George
Quick Breakdown: Paul George
Paul George has enjoyed a strong second professional season thusfar. Capable of a highlight play on almost every trip, George is averaging 12 points, nearly 6 rebounds, and has started every game for the 22-12 Indiana Pacers. He is ranked around the middle of the pack amongst starting NBA shooting guards when it comes to PER (15.6 is only slightly above average overall, however), and his body type, athleticism, and enthusiasm has led many to predict big things for the 6’8 guard.
It is without a doubt that Paul George oozes potential. The first thing you notice is how he looks – George’s length and athleticism are obvious to any observer. His pure length rivals that of players like Kevin Durant and Corey Brewer. He possesses smooth movement patterns, and any herky-jerkiness in his game is deliberate rather than accidental. His body moves fluidly, all as one piece, and he appears refined and bouncy in nearly every attack situation.
There are many things to like beyond the fact that he passes nearly any NBA “eye-test” with flying colors. George displays good tendencies that you typically see in smaller guards that make him very difficult to guard at his size. He attacks off two feet often, giving him the ability to control his finishes better and take a physical bump but continue on to complete the play. He changes directions well, often making small adjustments mid move that allow him better attack angles at the end.
George does not waste a lot of space on drives. His length and quickness form a lethal combination when it comes to face-up attacks, as he gets by the shoulder of his defender and is in the lane after barely a full stride. This straight line drive eliminates any curvature or banana shape to his attack, and makes him much more deadly against help defenses.
A talented passer, George looks like he is willing and able to get his teammates involved despite an average of just over two assists per game. He is scary in transition, and stationed at the top of the key is able to fit the ball into small areas and throw it over the top of defenders as well. Speaking of defense, George is a plus on-ball defender, using length to take up space against his opponents, and does not shy away from contact.
With all that said, some of his youthful tendencies are not quite as positive. George will go through entire series of possessions where he disappears completely in the halfcourt setting. He gets caught standing around too much without the ball, unengaged with his team and not threatening the defense with his ability to score.
Because so many of his drives come so easily to him, he tends to give up when he encounters resistance a little too quickly. This leads to him settling for pull-ups and contested long jumpers, both of which are low percentage shots for him right now (especially long, contested 2s, which are the worst shot in basketball). In those situations, George needs to either create passing angles and get the ball back to attack again or he needs to work on his ability to push past that defender using counters and change of speed to continue his attack. It also makes his overall shot selection suspect, as he simply can’t make some of the shots he takes.
While his on-ball defense is a plus, George’s off-ball defense is not as good. He often gets caught halfway when off-the-ball: he ends up reaching in on attacking opponents, doesn’t really get in position to force them into a decision, and leaves teammates out to dry just a little too much. One thing he will need to learn is to either commit his body or not, and that going halfway is a recipe for disaster (both for him personally, as he looks lost, and for his team, because without commitment they don’t know exactly where he’ll be).
George has been compared to a young Tracy McGrady. This seems an unfair comparison, as he looks to me like much more of a stat sheet stuffer than an assassin-like scorer. He needs to think about the overall impact he can have on a game as a shooter and all-around playmaker (like a Steve Smith). The value he can bring a club comes from his overall skillset rather than just his ability to score.
A matchup problem for many teams around the league, Paul George looks like the kind of player who can be a starter for a championship contender, and maybe a threshold all-star if things come together over the next few years. He may not be the untouchable solution that some make him out to be, but his value is considerable and his contributions will be many over the next few years.
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Each week, HOOPSWORLD NBA analyst and coach Anthony Macri will open his notebook and offer an assortment of observations on games, players, and teams from throughout the league. Coach Macri serves as a player development consultant for the Pro Training Center and Coach David Thorpe, working with a variety of NBA players on their skills and game understanding and serves as an assistant coach at Paul VI Catholic High School (Fairfax, VA), a consensus top 10 team in the nation this season. The Coach’s Notebook appears on HOOPSWORLD every Thursday.