Pacers fans rejoice! The Indiana Pacers are looking pretty good for at least the next 3-5 years after announcing they have signed swingman Paul George to a 5-year max extension, believed to be around $90 million. This means the Pacers now have PG24 for the next five years, George Hill for the next four, and David West and Roy Hibbert locked in for the next three. That's a very solid core, and expect the Pacers to ink Lance Stephenson to an extension as well.
Did George deserve the max contract? Even though it stings a bit, like it did when the Pacers re-signed Hibbert last offseason, I think it's worth it. PG24's numbers last year, 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists (and 19.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists in the playoffs) don't necessarily scream "max contract" at anyone, but he is considered one of the best wing defenders in the league AND he has the potential to be the next Pacers superstar in the league since Reggie Miller.
So even though PG24 earned the opportunity to sign this contract by winning Most Improved Player last season and grabbing All-Defensive Second Team and All-NBA Third Team honors, he must improve significantly to earn the dollars he will get from it. And there's every good reason to expect that he will, given his desire to be great, relentless work ethic, team-first mentality and the tools to be one of the best two-way players in the NBA.
And let's face it, the Pacers didn't have much of a choice. They had to overpay to get Roy Hibbert to stay last year and were lucky to sign David West two years ago because he was coming off an ACL injury and the Pacers were able to offer him the minutes Boston wasn't.
In his first offseason, George worked on his three-point shooting, raising his percentage from 29.7% to 38.5%. Last offseason he worked on his ball handling, helping him boost his scoring average by allowing him to get shots closer to the rim and in transition. This offseason, he's working to be the Pacers' number one guy on offense. In all honesty, he doesn't need to be, with Danny Granger and David West back and Roy Hibbert improving his offensive game, but it's good to see him rising to the challenge. I just hope he doesn't sacrifice other parts of his game to do it.
What the signing does mean is that, unless Danny Granger agrees to a veteran's minimum contract next season (impossible), he will no longer be a Pacer soon. If he recovers well from knee surgery and is an impact player for the Pacers, they might keep him for the playoff run, especially if the Pacers start looking like a serious contender. If he struggles or doesn't live up to expectations, expect him to be traded for some solid pieces before the trade deadline. Either way, it's a win-win situation for the Pacers.
Pacers fans are excited heading into the 2013-2014 season -- and they absolutely should be. They have an incredible core locked into place for the next few years and a potential superstar in the making. Get ready to believe.