Paul George - So. SG/SF, Fresno State
Per36min numbers against Quality Opponents (10 games):
17.8 pts, 7.1 rebs, 3.3 asts, 2.1 stls, 0.6 blks, 4.3 TOs, 2.9 PFs
35.5 FG%, 27.3 3pt% (15/55), 90.0 FT%, .43 FTA/FGA
After two years of playing at Fresno State, Paul George is a relative enigma to the casual fan. Playing in the WAC did not offer him many opportunities to go up against quality NCAA teams, as the best WAC teams of the past two seasons (Utah State and Nevada) did not exactly offer the type of NBA-caliber talent to go up against that teams in the major conferences could. However, the diligent fan could find games being streamed online, and in those games they could see that his talent stood out on the court.
Standing about 6’7 and weighing roughly 205lbs, George isn’t powerfully built. That’s not his game, however, as he’s more comfortable on the perimeter than he is slashing to the rim and working on the block. Seeing as he has pretty good athleticism and wingspan for a wing, this may not be taking full advantage of his physical gifts; but word is he wasn’t challenged to expand his role at Fresno State, and thus he stayed in the area he was comfortable in. This has reportedly changed since he declared for the draft, and now he’s expanding his game to being more adept at handling the ball and getting to the rim.
It was kind of a tale of two seasons for Paul. Before he sprained his ankle, he was 46.9% from the field and 39.1% from 3pt range. After he came back, he went 33.9% from the field and 28.1% from range. Now, could it be that the difference lied in the quality of competition? Potentially, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in how he finished the season and say that he just lost his rhythm during the time off or that the ankle continued to bother him.
However, it also could be that he’s a streaky shooter. It’s no secret that George relies heavily on his jumper. Nearly half of his attempts on the year were from 3pt range, and when you saw him play during games he would hover around the perimeter and either catch and shoot or look to create jumpers after one or two dribbles. He was effective creating separation from his defender in most instances, but even though his shot appears pure, late in the year they were not falling at the same rate as they were in the beginning. For someone who doesn’t take advantage of his relatively good handle and clear athletic advantage in college by going to the rim, this spelled doom to his efficiency numbers and put him at a 0.81 PPP - tied for last among the SF prospects.
Now, I do believe his shooting stroke is pure, which is why I have him ranked as a fringe lottery pick. The evidence which helps back this up comes in his freshman numbers, numbers from the first half of this year, and his obscenely high FT% for a wing. Combine this with the fact that he likely will not be the focus of defenses in the NBA as he tended to be in college, and I think his efficiency will improve.
Enough about that, time to talk about other facets of his game outside of his long-range jump shot. When in the post, George likes to spin and attempt fadeaways and rarely uses these opportunities to take it to the rim. This isn’t a problem, as he doesn’t necessarily have the strength to do this in the pros either; but it does effectively limit him to working from the perimeter until he can hit those at a high rate or develop some kind of reliable counter. As mentioned earlier, he also wasn’t effective late in the year when it came to attempting jumpers off the dribble; but I’m wary at declaring this as being a weakness of his since it’s possible the ankle injury played a large role in his woes. I really wish he used his athleticism and handle to take it to the rack more, as when he did he seemed to be very effective at finishing (he’s truly an electrifying dunker), but at this point it’s not a part of his game, though it’s rumored that during the offseason he’s been working on it so stay tuned to news from workouts.
As mentioned, he almost certainly won’t be the focal point of an offense in the NBA, so the fact that he has off the ball and playmaking skills greatly helps his cause. Paul possesses good court vision and passing ability for a wing prospect, showing the ability to recognize when he should rotate the ball, make the simple pass, or create a shot for a teammate by threading it into the post with a quick flick of the wrist. However, he makes poor decisions by trying to force things too often, which results in his occasional good playmaking go to waste because of the unnecessary turnovers he commits. This will certainly need to be corrected at the pro level, because a non-star on the wing should not be wasting possessions for his team. Again, this was rumored to be something he’s improved, so stay tuned to how he performs in 3-on-3 action in the workouts.
Defensively, George has all the tools to be a good or potentially great wing defender. He has the lateral food speed, length, and leaping ability to be a very effective pest. His problem lies in the gambling nature which he was allowed to get away with at Fresno State. This mentality allowed him to make many impressive plays, including jumping the passing lanes for steals and breakaway plays for himself or his teammates; as well as weakside blocks near the hoop where he shows off his impressive vertical and timing. However, this also allowed his man to have some open jumpers when George would sag into the paint, or allow him to cut into the lane after he would lunge for a steal. Even with those flaws, he showed himself to be a pretty good man defender on the perimeter; and with proper coaching he could be a plus player on that end of the floor against the smaller SFs, though may have great problems against the stronger SFs in the NBA like Melo or Wallace who like to post up.
Overall, Paul’s great physical tools, smooth stroke, relatively good playmaking skills, and defensive aptitude make him a tantalizing prospect. There’s a lot of uncertainty with him and how he’ll make the transition, so opinions of him will be all over the board. Me? I like him as an option for teams in the late lottery and mid-first because of his potential as a role player who, if he puts it all together, could become a guy who gets some all-star looks in his career.
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