Kawhi Leonard finally got his first win in San Antonio as a member of the opposing team, and now Paul George gets his first chance to win in Oklahoma City since demanding a trade from the Thunder this offseason.
Both Leonard and George wanted to play closer to home, but one third of the way into the season, it's clear that the basketball fit for both players is excellent in Los Angeles.
Paul George has been an offensive juggernaut for the Clippers. He is averaging 24.5 points in 30.5 minutes per game, giving him the highest per-36 minute scoring average of his career. He has a career-high usage rate at 30.9% of possessions, but is still posting the best true shooting percentage of his career at 62.0%. His turnovers a little up, though his assists are as well, but the most important thing is that George is shooting the lights out.
George has been quick to credit his new shoulders for his fluidity on offense. Recall that he had procedures to repair both a rotator cuff in his right shoulder and a labrum in his left shoulder this offseason. Now that he's had time to recover, George once again has one of the purest jumpers in the league. He's shooting 50.3% on twos and 40.2% on threes, and that's on a diet of some pretty difficult shots.
The Clipper wing takes over half of his field goals from beyond the arc, and most of the those threes are above the break. He only takes one-fifth of his shots at the rim, so he's cleaning up from the midrange as well. Take a look at how easy it is for George to come off a screen and cash a three; it's like the contest isn't even there.
Because of George's outstanding jumper, he remains a threat to draw fouls off the ball, and he ranks in the 95th percentile of earning non-shooting fouls.
The Clippers have a set of plays called the Paul George Package that take advantage of George's gravity off the ball, using pin downs and other screens to get George open. Thus far this season, he's averaging 1.17 points per possession off of screens, which places him in the 82nd percentile of players. It's exciting to think about what these actions could look like when Landry Shamet returns to form and the Clippers have two deadly shooting threats to play with on offense. The team got a hint of it during the fourth quarter against Houston, but not enough.
The beauty of George is that he thrives in any kind of offensive set, be it a handoff, a spot up, or running a pick-and-roll. The Clippers finally have an extended home stand to practice, and developing George's offensive repertoire within their system would be an excellent use of that time.
George's offensive brilliance has also allowed the team to withstand Leonard's load management. George's already stellar shooting percentages spike when Leonard is off the court. The team obviously doesn't perform as well, but they've done well enough to rest their best player and not suffer in the standings. George has a plus-3.0 differential when Leonard sits, which would make the Clippers about the 12th best team in the league without the reigning Finals MVP.
The Clippers get a chance to feature George as the lead star tonight against the Thunder, as Patrick Patterson also makes his return to Oklahoma City. George's body of work thus far this season proves that he is up to the task.
Injury update: JaMychal Green is making his return for the Clippers after missing most of the last 10 games. Patrick Beverley is out with a strained groin, so Lou Williams or Derrick Walton Jr. will start at point guard.