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2019-20 Clippers Report Card: Paul George

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It was a mixed bag of a season for the Clippers’ second-biggest offseason acquisition.

Denver Nuggets v LA Clippers - Game Five Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Key Information:

Name: Paul George

Age: 30

Years in the NBA: 10 years

Key stats: George appeared in 48 regular-season games and played 29.6 minutes per game. He averaged 21.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.9 assists while shooting 41.2% on 7.9 3-point attempts per contest.

In the playoffs, George played in every game and averaged 20.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 3.8 assists in 36.8 minutes per game. He shot 39.8% from the field, including 33.3% on 8.5 3-point attempts per outing.

Future contract status: George is entering year three of a four-year max contract signed in the summer of 2018 with Oklahoma City. He can opt out after this season.

Summary:

Acquiring Paul George was the coup of the offseason, not just for the Clippers, but across the league. Case in point: it resulted in Lawrence Frank’s Executive of the Year Award. The Clippers had been linked with Kawhi Leonard for months, but getting George to pair with him was the cherry on top of an already-loaded sundae, even if it required the team to sacrifice significant future assets, namely Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

George’s season took awhile to get going. He missed all of offseason workouts, training camp, and preseason, in addition to the first 11 games of the regular season while he recovered from two shoulder surgeries, but he came back looking as smooth as ever. His jump shot was in fine form all year. Unfortunately, it took some time for George to regain the other aspects of his game, like his slashing ability and his defensive tenacity, as he regained trust in his new shoulders. It didn’t seem like he ever had full confidence in his body before the shutdown, and he said that he was only able to complete his rehab process during the hiatus.

The bubble got the better of George. He seemed fine during the seeding games, but admitted to struggling with his mental health during the postseason. Once he was able to address his health concerns, Gary Harris was there to create an entirely new set of struggles.

Throughout the year, there were moments when George looked like the MVP candidate he was in 2018-19, but those didn’t come frequently enough, especially considering the price the Clippers paid to bring George to Los Angeles.

Strengths:

Paul George is one helluva shooter. He had a career-best shooting season from 3-point range in his first season with the Clippers, and he had 13 games during the regular season and playoffs of at least five makes from beyond the arc. He can pull up over just about any shooting guard in the league that is defending him, and he was more willing than ever to shoot at a moment’s notice this season, which added a new dimension to LA’s offense. Not only were the Clippers a more frequent and accurate 3-point shooting team with George on the floor, but they also had better efficiency at the rim with the lane clear.

George also remains an excellent perimeter defender. He was the team’s best on-ball option this season (especially once Moe Harkless was jettisoned at the trade deadline), but the Clippers used him for all types of perimeter players. He particularly excels at fighting through screens. George is so good at staying skinny and slithering through a pick, rendering the advantage of a screen moot. He finished in the 99th percentile of players defending off screens, allowing 0.25 points per possession.

The Clippers also used George frequently in pick-and-roll. 32.9% of this possessions were as the pick-and-roll ball handler, and the resulting 0.97 points per possession ranked in the 80th percentile of players. Ivica Zubac and Montrezl Harrell are both excellent rollers, making it hard to trap George on these actions, and George is too good of a shooter to go under on.

Weaknesses:

George’s availability was a concern all year. Even after he missed time with the shoulders, he suffered multiple lower leg injuries that kept him out of the lineup. Other than when missed most of 2014-15 with a broken leg, durability has never been a concern for George. Unfortunately, he is now on the wrong side of 30, so it’s something to monitor going forward.

George seemed hesitant to attack the basket with his usual ferocity. His percentage of shooting fouls drawn dipped to its lowest rate since he was in Indiana, and he took only 21% of his shots at the rim, the second-lowest mark of his career. George is too good to just be spot-up shooter or long-range specialist. Yes, there’s value in a player like Duncan Robinson, but George’s driving game in conjunction with his shooting is what makes him a star.

Then, there were the playoffs. It’s tricky to take away too much from George’s postseason performance given the oddities of the bubble and George admitting that the experience affected his mental health. But the fact remains that George wasn’t good enough as the no. 2 option in either series. He was inconsistent with his scoring, and he let foul trouble take him out of multiple games.

He also made some wild comments during the Denver series that led to head shaking from the fanbase and eye-rolling from his own locker room. These Clippers seemed to suffer from a lack of leadership and accountability, and George deserves blame for that as one of the team’s two best players.

Future with the Clippers:

George is probably untouchable. Leonard is the face of this franchise moving forward, but it would take a Godfather offer to move George, not unlike the one that brought him to the Clippers in the first place. The SoCal native has been very public about how much it means to him to play in L.A. for this franchise, and the Clippers are counting on that bond to last for years to come.

Overall grade: B

George was outstanding during the regular season, and most of his limitations were a consequence of his injuries, which had to have been factored in when he was signed. His playoff performance left something to be desired, but he wasn’t the only one.