9. Paul George, SF, Pacers

Thursday September 15th, 2016

Basketball analysts of all kinds, ourselves included, are often guilty of treating offense and defense as discrete enterprises. Teams are discussed for their performance on either end without considering how the two might be related. Players are dissected in a way that can make every individual basketball skill seem separate from the others in application and concession. George, in particular, points out the flaw in that framework. How many players in the league are both their team’s primary shot creator and full-time defensive stopper? The only other certain qualifier (Kawhi Leonard) ranks just a few spots higher than George. So many others fall behind him because of the unique strain of that kind of dual role and what it means to carry it. Even those players who could take on both roles often don’t for the sake of conserving energy. That George is willing to makes it all the easier to build a winning team around him. A spot that might otherwise need a rare 3-and-D player could instead be filled with a shooting specialist. A lineup that might typically require a traditional rim protector could maybe get by with a more versatile big. A point guard who doesn’t quite have the skill set to run an offense full-time might seem suddenly viable alongside George and ready to contribute in other ways. George’s double-shift is a grind—so much so that it’s hard to really blame him when he settles for a pull-up jumper on what could be a hard drive. Those kinds of vices are just more excusable for a true, two-way player who can shift into superstar gear whenever his team needs him to be the best player on the floor. (Last year: No. 20)

+ Came back from major injury into an immediate, big-minute role that removed all doubt 
+ One of the best rebounding wings in the league
Makes some impressive passes but too many wild ones
Handle can be a bit too loose to consistently get George where he needs to go

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