The Pacers are not a fun team to watch. Aside from Monta Ellis’ inevitable scoring outbursts and the odd Chase Budinger dunk, they don’t produce a lot of highlights. They play with one of the slowest paces in the league and score the fifth-fewest points in the NBA. Myles Turner is the most intriguing young player on the team, and now he’s out for four weeks with a broken thumb. Unless you like solid George Hill passes, this probably ain’t your favorite League Pass team.
It’s easy to miss, then, how good Paul George has been for the 6-4 Pacers. Since dropping their first three games, Indiana is 6-1. This is primarily due to George playing like a slightly upgraded version of his pre-horrific leg injury self.
To the stats! George is career-high PER of 23.5. This is not a catch-all, but it’s telling of the impact he has on the team. He’s leading the Pacers in usage, which probably says more about Monta Ellis accepting a secondary role than it does about George. The Pacers’s slow pace has allowed George to draw free throws at a significantly higher rate than his career average. He’s taking and making fewer three-pointers, which makes sense given that he’s spending 50% of his court time as a power forward.
If you ignore the meaningless 91 minutes George played last year, this is his first go-round with a radically reworked Pacers team. The core of David West, Roy Hibbert, and Lance Stephenson has been dismantled, and rather than play as simply an efficient, versatile wing player, George is now the indisputable centerpiece of the Indiana offense. He’s taking the most shots per game of his career, and thus far, it’s working.
His team’s wins have come over opponents like Miami, Detroit, and Boston. While not necessarily the most impressive victories, all three teams are mid-tier Eastern Conference playoff contenders, the same as the Pacers. If Indiana’s defense holds up and Paul George continues to comfortably handle an increased set of responsibilities, they’ll have to jockey for seedings with those three. However, it’s way too early to make any kind of divinations towards that end. Most of all, it’s heartening to see a recovered George play this well after a truly devastating injury.
Photo via AP