The NBA announced Tuesday that Pacers forward Paul George has been named the Most Improved Player.
George, 22, made his first All-Star Game in 2013, emerging in the absence of the injured Danny Granger to average career highs of 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.8 steals. Regarded as one of the league's premier perimeter defenders, George was a key piece in Indiana's top-ranked defense. He also led the Pacers in scoring and helped them to a 49-32 record, third best in the Eastern Conference.
A long, athletic wing who still has plenty of room to grow, George fits the classic "Most Improved Player" archetype, as he made the leap from "good" to "very, very good" for a winning team. A majority of a recent SI.com panel picked the 2010 first-round pick as the Most Improved Player. The Point Forward took a longer look at George's early-season success in December.
George is the fourth Pacers player to win the award, following Granger (2008-09), Jermaine O'Neal ('01-02) and Jalen Rose ('99-00).
George received 52 first-place votes, finishing ahead of the Hornets' Greivis Vasquez (13 first-place votes), the Bucks' Larry Sanders (10), the Magic's Nikola Vucevic (10) and the Sixers' Jrue Holiday (10). Some other notable players who received at least a vote: Joakim Noah, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, James Harden Kenneth Faried and Brook Lopez. The Pacers lead the Hawks 1-0 in a first-round playoff series. George had his first career playoff triple-double in Game 1.