23-year-old star Paul George recently put the pen-to-paper as he cashed out on a five-year, maximum rookie extension.
George’s 2012-13 season proved to be crucial and career-shaping. George showed promising potential in his second season but all expectations came before last year. Would George make the necessary third-year leap to earn honorable mention in the elite small forward conversation?
Not only did George earn honorable mention in the conversation. Some would say he made his way into the conversation. There’s obviously LeBron James, who is in a class of his own. I’d probably even single out Kevin Durant in his own second-class. I’d place PG24 as a third-class small forward, right beside Carmelo Anthony.
George doesn’t average 25+ points like the other three elite small forwards. However, PG24’s impact on the court speaks much louder than his stats. He is the identity of this gritty Pacers ball club: a young player never willing to beg for mercy, a player who always puts his teammates first, and a mentally tough athlete who can be a head case for opponents.
George, about 6-9 and 220, is quite the athlete. Flashy plays and thunderous slams; he’s got those. But those are just bonus accessories that come with George. Overall, George is a fantastic leader on the court and he guards elite players night-in and night-out.
PG24 can defend LeBron just as well as anyone in the league. Much of that is being extremely athletic and having the foot-speed to stay with James, but it starts with the substantial effort he puts in. George does not appear to be intimidated by an overwhelming James, which is a reason he deserves much respect.
Although George is an established all-star, he isn’t yet a guaranteed superstar. While George is far from reaching his full potential, the magnitude of what he’s already capable of is quite impressive. Were Larry Bird and Indiana premature on pulling the trigger and handing out George a bulky contract? Of course, we don’t know the answer to that yet, but Bird and the organization have many reasons to believe this was the correct move going forward.
Had Indiana not given George an extension he would agree on, it would have given a big market (L.A. Lakers) a great opportunity to pull some strings for him. Not to mention, George was born and raised in L.A and would have the opportunity to shine bright in Hollywood. George would have been able to opt out after this season and an already contending and still uprising Pacer team could not afford that.
It’s interesting when stacking up George against the other top small forwards. George has the whole package: scoring, athleticism, defense, leadership, etc. The only other small forward exhibiting that is James and somewhat Kevin Durant.
I know Durant is an unstoppable scorer and clearly the better player as of now. But K.D. dominates the game by getting anywhere he wants on the court and finishing plays. George can’t take over games to the extent that Durant or Carmelo can, but his skill-set is just as complete.
Look for King George to keep amazing us as the young star can only improve from here-on-out. I have no complaints for Paul George but he needs to make sure to keep a mean attitude on the court. Nice guys don’t make it in the NBA.
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