The man needs no introduction.
Paul George is one of the most gifted players the league has ever seen. Seven-time NBA All-Star, six-time member of the All-NBA Team, four-time member of the NBA All-Defensive Team — George’s credentials attest to his flash and prowess on the hardwood.
There are just two blemishes on his picture-perfect resume, though, and it just happens that these two flaws are interrelated: championships and injuries.
Ahead of a highly-anticipated season for Geroge and the Clippers, we take a look at what we can expect from the newly-married Palmdale native in his fourth year in the 213.
What is the best-case scenario for George?
It’s simple: no injury. But when the season is underway and games are rolling out, it’s not as simple as it sounds. George does have a history of injuries — some as serious as an open tibia-fibula fracture in 2014 — that we can’t overlook.
But in the case that he does play a majority of the games for the Clippers, he’ll be the same basketball maestro he’s always been. Alongside Kawhi Leonard, George will put up 20 to 25 night in and night out and you can expect 7 rebounds and 6 assists per game.
Although not being heavily credited for his play-making, under the prudence of Tyronn Lue, he has grown to use his size and handles to dish the ball out for an Ivica Zubac flush in the paint or kick the ball out for a Luke Kennard three.
The Clippers have awfully missed George’s presence on the floor. Looking beyond the stat sheets, his return will entail that the Clippers have an experienced leader, three-level scorer, and one of the league’s best two-way players on the floor. Opposing defenses will naturally gravitate to George and Leonard, leaving the team’s other scoring options with less pressure and more space.
What is the worst-case outcome?
Injuries, injuries, injuries. George’s predisposition to missing games has caused some grief and suffering for the Clippers. He sat out for over 50 games last season and even missed a win-or-go-home Play-In Game due to COVID protocols.
As much as it pains me to even think about this, but the worst-came outcome is for George to lose yet another season to an injury. In that case, the Clippers will continue their lifelong chase for the championship without one of their best players. And they will go down in history not as champions, but as one of history’s many what-if teams.
What do you think is the most likely role for George?
George’s usage rate was at an all-time high last season, clocking in at 35.5 percent (the highest for any forward in the league). With Leonard back on the floor, the rate will drop down to and plateau at around 30 percent. If Leonard can play the way he’s always played, he will be the team’s first option and focal point — Lue has made sure to build off Leonard’s offensive gifts, building pieces around him and running triangle offense sets.
That leaves George as the team’s second option — considerably the best second option in the league. That doesn’t mean he won’t be able to do what he wants with the ball. Leonard and George understand each other’s strengths and build off each other to play their game.
It doesn’t seem fair to label George as a second option, considering how flexible the roster and usage will be throughout the year. Whoever is on fire gets the ball.
And we can expect the driver behind massive scoring runs to be George himself. When he’s in the groove, there’s nothing that can stop him.