After Paul George‘s dazzling performance against the Cavaliers, he firmly believes he’ll land on an All-NBA team.
Unlike some comments that athletes make, this isn’t outrageous. In fact, it’s likely. George and the Pacers battled LeBron James and the Cavs through six periods Sunday night, and George put on his best performance of the year in the loss.
He finished with 43 points on 16-of-33 shooting and added nine rebounds and nine assists. More important than the numbers is how George accrued them, and he was blisteringly hot during the second overtime. He dumped 12 total points in the fourth and the first overtime before exploding for 13 in the second — keep in mind that OT periods are just five minutes. Unfortunately, Indiana got bested 135-130.
According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, George emphasized how landing on an All-NBA team is an honor of which he’s worthy.
Also Read: Paul George Still Isn’t Happy With Indiana
“For contract reasons (All-NBA) is important. But I’m not thinking about contracts,” said George after the Pacers had fallen out of the playoff picture. “If my performance down the stretch lands me on the All-NBA, which I think I’m deserving of, then so be it. I’ll be happy.”
Over his last 10 games, George has put up All-NBA numbers, and it’s arguably his best basketball of the season. The former Most Improved Player has bumped his scoring up to 29.1 a night (tied for fourth) while shooting 48.8 percent from the field and 42.4 from three. In addition to that, he’s grabbing 6.7 boards and plucking 2.3 steals. However, the kicker is Indiana’s abysmal 3-7 record.
Regarding talent, few small forwards are better than Paul George. He’s got the all-around style that mimics Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James, and he routinely holds his own when matching up against them. James is the only one of the three who has better head-to-head numbers against George; Leonard and the Spurs have a better record, but the numbers are eerily similar. With Butler, George has the clear edge.
Now that March is over, George is on pace to match last season’s output. He’s averaging 23.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists, but the latter two categories have seen a slight drop off. One could argue that they’re worse because the Pacers added some talent in the offseason like Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young, but the decrease isn’t enough to void his All-NBA candidacy.
George’s most likely destination is the third team, the same slot he’s been in the other three times. James, Leonard, Kevin Durant (albeit, the injury may have an enormous impact on his selection), Giannis Antetokounmpo, Draymond Green and Anthony Davis are just a handful of other guys who will get looked at, thus putting George and Butler on the afterburners.
Of all the guys listed above, Davis joins PG as the only two out of the playoff race, and, according to Windhorst, that’s a big deal.
The All-NBA teams are designed to highlight the league’s 15 best players. Stars and superstars take their squads to the playoffs, and it’s unclear if George is going to be able to turn the season around with just five games left. The loss to Cleveland dropped them to 37-40 on the year, putting them in a tie with the Miami Heat for the eighth spot. Should they finish the season that way, the Heat would advance because they beat the Pacers in two of the three meetings this year.
Not making the postseason would effectively make PG’s decision to bolt when he’s a free agent. After such lofty expectations heading into the year, the Pacers have fallen flat on their face. And George doesn’t seem happy with the direction of the franchise.
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