Indiana Pacers swingman Paul George has officially been crowned the NBA's Most Improved Player for 2013.
The 6'9" third-year forward, who made his first All-Star appearance this year, averaged a team-high 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.8 steals (compared to 12.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals last year), while also destablishing himself as one of the league's best perimeter defenders.
The 23-year-old George received 52 out of 121 frist placed votes and finished with 311 points overall, ahead of the Hornets' Greivis Vasquez (146 points) and the Bucks' Larry Sanders (141). He becomes the fourth Pacer to receive the award, with his predecessors being Jalen Rose, Jermaine O'Neal and Danny Granger, whose injury woes this season enabled George to step into a leadership role.
This was a strange win for George. Not to say he has not improved a whole lot, but some might say he has not even been the most improved player on his own team (with that honor going to Lance Stephenson, who went from bench warmer to solid starter). Some expert predictions didn't even mention George's name -- apart from Vasquez and Sanders people were more focused on the 76ers Jrue Holiday, the Rockets' James Harden, the Trailblazers' JJ Hickson and the Magic's Nikola Vucevic.
In George's defence, he did improve on all his numbers (notwithstanding more minutes and an increased role), and was the leading scorer on a team that locked up the third seed in the East without Granger. And his defense has been spectacular at times. Throw in that triple-double (I know it doesn't count) in game 1, and he doesn't look like such a bad choice.
It was good to hear him say that he is not satisfied and wants to be on an All-NBA team next season and eventually in the MVP conversation. That's a lot of confidence, and the Pacers will need that if they are ever going to come close to challenging Miami and the beasts of the West.