HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Paul George had his coming-out party in the 2013 playoffs, out-playing Carmelo Anthony in the Eastern Conference semifinals and then going toe-to-toe with LeBron James for seven games in the conference finals.
The Indiana Pacers already knew George’s value. His ability to defend the league’s best players one-on-one was maybe the most important part of their No. 1 ranked defense. So it’s no surprise that they’re working on a long-term extension that will keep him in Indiana for the next several years. George told Michael Pointer of the Indianapolis Star on Wednesday that he’ll have his extension by the start of the season:
Indiana Pacers All-Star forward Paul George said today the team’s fans don’t need to worry about him going anywhere.
Indianapolis is his professional home and he plans to be here for a long time.
“(A long-term contract) is going to get done,” George told The Indianapolis Star. “There will be a deal signed and sealed on the table before the season. We’re (George and Pacers management) on the same page.”
George, who grew up in Southern California and still lives there during the offseason, was asked in July about the possibility that Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant would personally recruit him to play for the Lakers.
“Of course it would be tough (to say no to Kobe),” George told ESPN Radio. “You’re talking about playing (at) home.”
The comments generated a mild firestorm but may have been much adieu about nothing.
“No,” George said when asked if there was any chance he would leave the Pacers. “Honestly, I love it here. I want to be here. It’s a great place. There are no distractions. I can stay focused. It’s all about basketball here. I can stay focused and do my job.”
This should be a no-brainer for the Pacers. They struck gold in drafting George 10th in the 2010 Draft and he really took a big step toward stardom last season in making his first All-Star Game. But there is a element of future value in any contract extension, because George isn’t yet the player he can be.
Offensively, George took a step forward last season, carrying a bigger load with Danny Granger out for most of the season. But George still needs more polish on offense.
George is a good 3-point shooter, but was below average from other spots on the floor. He’s capable of ridiculous dunks like this, but still is a far cry from finishing consistently like James (who shot an amazing 76.0 percent in the restricted area last season) or even teammate Lance Stephenson (67.9 percent).
Field goal percentage, 2012-13
|Player/League||Rest. Area||Other paint||Mid-range||Corner 3||Above-the-break 3|
Turnovers are another issue with George. Indiana ranked 29th in turnover ratio last season and George had 71 more turnovers than anyone else on the squad. Of 82 guards and wings that had a usage rate of 20 percent or higher, George had the 11th highest turnover rate, with only point guards and Manu Ginobili ahead of him on the list.
Still, when you combine his offense with his defense, only James and Kevin Durant stand above George on the small forward food chain. George is just 23 years old and there’s no reason why he can’t get more polished offensively as he continues to lock down the wing for Indiana.
It will be interesting to see if he gets a standard four-year (beyond this season) extension or gets the fifth year as Indiana’s “Designated Player.” Either way, the Pacers have will have a star on their roster for years to come.