With a gaping hole in the back court and a valuable spot in the draft, many thought the Indiana Pacers would be dealing the 10th pick to acquire a point guard who could immediately bolster their chances of becoming a playoff team. I know I certainly did. It all made perfect sense. We had something of value – expiring contracts and a lottery pick – and numerous teams had point guards they were willing to deal, Darren Collison, George Hill, Eric Maynor, Devin Harris to name a few.
So why didn’t a deal get done? We’ll never really know, but Larry Bird indicated in his post draft press conference that the price was simply too high to acquire a true difference maker at the position. I can buy that. And there’s definitely some upside in waiting to sell off our expiring contracts, as their value will only increase the closer to next season it gets. Still, coming away with nothing after all that buildup made for a disappointing evening.
While the Pacers may not have drastically improved their chances of drawing Indianapolis sports back to Conseco Fieldhouse this season, the talent and upside they acquired with their three picks gives Bird and Jim O’Brien some intriguing options to play with. Let’s take a look at the haul.
Paul George: Guard/Forward, Fresno State University
There wasn’t a player left on the board with as much upside as George. Standing 6’8″ with a seven-foot wingspan, George possesses the foot speed and shooting ability of a guard, with the size and rebounding prowess of power forward. His athleticism is off the charts, and a quick youtube search of George will reveal his leaping ability in all its glory. George played AAU ball with Philadelphia 76ers point guard Jrue Holiday, and UCLA guard Malcolm Lee, but wasn’t recruited heavily by major schools until late in the process. He decided to go to Fresno State, mainly because he was promised immediate, and extensive, playing time. He received it, averaging 34.6 minutes per game on his way to leading the Bulldogs in scoring (14.6) and rebounding (6.2) during his freshman season.
He upped those totals to 16.8 points per game and 7.2 rebounds to go along with 3.0 assists and 2.2 steals his sophomore year. While those are good numbers for a kid of his experience, they weren’t the type of dominant stats normally associated with a lottery pick, especially one playing in a weaker conference like the WAC.
The problem was that the Fresno State program was coming off NCAA sanctions, and outside of George, didn’t possess much in the way talented basketball players. In his two seasons, the Bulldogs went 27-37 and never advanced past the first round of the WAC Tournament. As Steve Cleveland, George’s coach at Fresno put it:
“We just weren’t a very talented team. It wasn’t because Paul wasn’t trying. He had everybody’s attention on the court.”
Because of those issues, George developed a reputation as a player with spotty decision making skills, inconsistent effort, and an over-reliance on the three point shot. Fair points, all of them, but considering the situation, they’re the type of red flags that can be improved by situation and coaching (not that the Pacers are great in either category, but at least they’re heading in the right direction. Maybe).
Scouts Take (via NBADraft.net)
Strengths: A 6’8 small forward with a long wingspan and unlimited NBA range, he has a quick release and does not need much room to let it fly…His athleticism and ability to run the floor make him dynamic in transition, resulting in big time dunks that can spark his team…He attempted exactly 132 free throws in both his freshman and sophomore years, however he hit 28 more his sophomore year (a 70% to 91% jump)…Impressive vision and passing skills, which is not usually the case for a perimeter forward … Rebounds well for a small forward…Defensively his athleticism contributes to over 2 steals and almost a block per game, illustrating his ability to anticipate and make a play on the ball
Weaknesses: George’s biggest weakness is his inability to create for himself, and his poor shooting percentage when pulling up off the dribble…Lacks a great handle which limits his overall game, as practically all of his baskets come from spotting up, good position down low, or in transition ..Tends to get too trigger happy from behind the arc, rushing long shots as opposed to letting the play develop and waiting for a better option…He needs to not always settle for the long ball, and use his strong body and basketball skill set to be a little more creative in regards to getting easier opportunities and getting to the line …At times he can be sloppy with the ball, throwing unreasonable passes while looking as if his head is not fully in the game
My Take: It looks like George is in the fold for the long-term, so it’ll be interesting to what other moves the Pacers make. With the addition of Lance Stephenson and George, they now have six wing players on the roster — Brandon Rush, Mike Dunleavy, Dahntay Jones, and Danny Granger being the others. George shares many similarities with Granger — the two have actually been working out together this summer — and should prove to be a solid backup to the All-Star at the small forward position in his rookie season. His offensive game is good enough to where he could approach a double-digit scoring average from the get-go. Long term, he has the athleticism and skill set to be an elite player in the league.
|Highlights of Paul George playing at Fresno State|
|Paul George dominates the end of a game against Boise State|
|Paul George posterizes two defenders|
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