After getting traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder from the Indiana Pacers this past offseason, Paul George has averaged 20.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists over 37.1 minutes in 34 contests.
The Thunder currently hold a 20-17 record, which is a clear disappointment after all of the hype that adding George and Carmelo Anthony to Russell Westbrook’s team originally generated.
PG-13 averaged a career-high 23.7 points along with 6.6 boards and 3.3 assists last season in Indiana. Playing alongside Westbrook has slightly hurt his scoring numbers, as expected, but George has clearly taken a backseat to Westbrook and, at times, Anthony, on the offensive end of the floor from a volume perspective.
As a result, he has been able to take high-percentage three-point shots, picking and choosing the right situations to shoot. As one of the best two-way players in the entire NBA, he has been one of the most dominant defensive players in the league as well now that he doesn’t have to assume the go-to scorer’s role on the other end of the court.
The future remains wide open for George, who is slated to become perhaps the most highly-coveted free agent this upcoming summer, but let’s take a look at how the first part of his season has gone from a statistical perspective.
Deadly from deep, but not from close
As of Monday night, George ranked 15th in the NBA in three-point shooting accuracy, knocking down 43.0 percent of his attempts. In addition to that, he had knocked down 107 total threes, which was tied for third in the league with Eric Gordon behind James Harden (145) and Klay Thompson (126).
That accuracy from beyond the arc is a clear product of playing alongside Westbrook. Since defenses have to collapse in order to prevent him an easy path to the basket, George, a lifetime 37.5 percent three-point shooter, has been able to gain solid looks from deep.
However, oddly enough, he is shooting just 41.5 percent from two-point range.
Usually it’s the other way around. Since a large portion of Oklahoma City’s offensive scheme involves isolation-based play, it seems as though George has struggled to convert his opportunities inside the three-point line, most likely due to tough, contested shots.
As the season rolls on and as he becomes more comfortable within OKC's offense, that number should improve.
A proven thief
Since Westbrook shoulders a large portion of the offensive load from a usage standpoint and since Anthony is a proven scorer, George has been able to give a strong effort on the defensive end of the floor. In fact, he leads the NBA by averaging a career-high 2.4 steals per contest, which leads the next-best thief (Westbrook) by 0.41. Every other player in the NBA averages below two steals per game, which makes George’s stat that much more amazing.
At this point, George should be considered as a strong Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Given his versatility on that end of the floor, he might be the frontrunner.
A season-long showcase
Before the season tipped off, George made it clear that signing an extension with the Thunder is a strong possibility. But, his hometown Los Angeles Lakers and a number of other teams will also most likely offer him max deals as well.
Will he stay or will he go?
Although he had a troubling stretch of games earlier in December (when he scored just eight points in two separate games in a seven-game span), George has posted 24-plus points in each of his last four games played and has gone 35-for-61 (57.4 percent) from the field in that span.
Therefore, the best might be yet to come for the four-time All-Star, who is most likely very motivated to make himself the most desired player in a stacked free agent class in the summer.
Based solely on the eye test, earlier in the season, George seemed to be less assertive on the offensive end of the court for the Thunder, which essentially made viewers overlook him and his immense talent. Now, he has seemed to turn the corner in that regard as he has adjusted to playing alongside his new teammates in coach Billy Donovan's system.
Although his shooting numbers have been quite odd, George is still one of the best two-way players in the game. It will be fascinating to see how the rest of the season plays out for him.