Second year Indiana Pacers swingman Paul George just finished with 23 points in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge on All-Star Friday, second only to MVP Kyrie Irving.
The 10th pick of the 2010 draft, George has risen from raw talent to to one of the most promising young players in the NBA. Having grown 2 inches to 6'10" during the offseason, George also worked on his game to become more proficient from the three-point line and continues to be one of the smoothest finishers on the break. He may still need to work on his lazy passing and dribbling, but every commentator in the league only has positive things to say about PG's game.
So how far has PG's game come? Last season, George averaged 9.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.5 blocks and shot 0.446 from the field, 0.349 from three-pont range and 0.773 from the line. This season, apart from a slight dip in FG% to 0.436, PG has improved in every facet of his game and is currently averaging 12.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.7 blocks. He is now a 40% three-point shooter who has already hit more threes this season (55) than last (41). His numbers are not flashy and the jump in numbers is not astounding, but there's no denying his game has gotten better and he has the tools to get a lot better down the track. The only thing working against George is that the Pacers like to spread the ball and distribute the ponts evenly, but there's no reason George can't be the team's number one player in a few years.
If the 2010 draft were to take place now, where would PG place? Looking at the list of players selected, the only players I would select over George are John Wall (1st pick) and probably Greg Monroe (7th)...and maybe DeMarcus Cousins...but because he's such a knucklehead it's hard to say whether most NBA GMs would take the risk. That would make PG the 3rd or 4th pick.
ESPN recently listed its Most Improved Player rankings at the mid-point of the season. Number one is of course Jeremy Lin. Number two is Ryan Anderson from Orlando and number three is Kyle Lowry from the Rockets. George is ranked number four, even though his numbers don't jump out at you.
Another indication of his advancement is the draft order of the Rising Stars Challenge. Shaq had the first pick and Charles Barkley the second. PG was selected 6th overall behind Blake Griffin, Kyrie Irving, Jeremy Lin, DeMarcus Cousins and Ricky Rubio. Now, Griffin and Rubio were selected in the 2009 draft, Irving was selected in 2011, and Lin was undrafted. So out of all the 2010 draftees, PG placed second behind Cousins.
At the moment, PG has been kind of under the radar because of flashier players and the fact he plays for the small market Pacers. But if he can win the dunk contest on All-Star Saturday, look for his reputation to take off. Judging from some of the dunks he just pulled off in the Rising Stars Challenge, I'd say he has a good chance.
Here's some highlights of PG's career high 30-point game against the Mavs on Feb 13.