In 2013, if you told me that I’d be writing this piece in 2017, I’d tell you that you were crazy. Back then, a 23-year old Paul George had just led the up-and-coming Pacers in a noble fight against the defending champion Heat. Averaging 20 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists for the series, George looked a strong bet to be a force in the postseason for years to come.
This was coming off an impressive 49-win season, and a 3-seed. George, Roy Hibbert and Lance Stephenson formed an unlikely alliance, that for some reason, seemed to work.
Obviously both players eventually departed Indiana, putting an end to the Pacers’ “dynasty” possibly in the making. But that doesn’t account for George’s disappointing development since then.
For the past few seasons, though, George has looked like the superstar, the MVP candidate that we all thought he was. But only in the first half. It’s become a broken record, but as soon as the second half rolls around, George’s numbers take significant hits across the board. I’ve really never seen anything like it.
It’s not uncommon for a player to see their numbers dip in the postseason, or in the 4th quarter of games. Defense becomes tighter, and officiating becomes more lenient. Playoffs and the 4th quarter tend to be more physical, as well. But that’s certainly not the case for the entire second half of the season. For the most part, the second half is the same as the first. So what gives? The only possible explanation is that he runs out of gas down the stretch. If that’s not the most pathetic excuse I’ve ever heard…
But it’s not only the regular season. George’s numbers see big dips in the postseason, as well. This postseason being no different. While the box score numbers may be impressive (points, rebounds and assists), that can be attributed to his sky-high usage rating. But his efficiency continued on the downward spiral that we consistently see from PG. He shot 38% from the field for the series. No, that’s not a typo.
But second half dips aside, George’s full-season numbers put him in the “franchise player” conversation. 24 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. With little postseason success lately, these numbers mean little, but they still warrant consideration. That is, if he shows the leadership qualities required to show us that he can lead a team to a title if given the right supporting cast. But those considerations were wiped away with his shenanigans against Cleveland.
Constantly deflecting blame, George cited CJ Miles, among other players, as the reason Indiana lost the series. It’s this, and actions like it, that disqualify him from being a “franchise player”.
Don’t get me wrong, though. If he ends up going to the Lakers and leads them to a deep postseason run, I’ll admit I was wrong. But until then, I can’t say he’s in such an exclusive club.
He’ll get big money this offseason regardless, and is worth every penny. But he’s not a member of the elite group of players worthy of having a franchise built around them.