Back in 2014 while playing for Team USA, Paul George suffered one of the gruesome injuries in recent memory. He came back from it but didn’t really regain his near MVP form, that is, until now. At times last season, he and Westbrook seemed almost dysfunctional, especially in the playoffs against Utah. This season is different, Paul George is different.
For the first time in his career, Paul George is averaging 25 PPG (24.9 to be exact) and drilling 3.3 three’s per game, both career highs. He’s also shooting more shots than ever before, that includes when he was the bonafide first option in his days on the Indiana Pacers. The biggest difference offensively this season for not only George but the Thunder as a team is the difference in FGA by him and Westbrook. Last season George attempted 17 shots a game and averaged 21.9 PPG while Westbrook attempted 21.1 shots per game and scored 25.4 PPG. This season that has flipped. George now attempts more than Westbrook at 19.3 FGA compared to Westbrook’s 18.9. Westbrook is still averaging a triple-double and has a higher USG% but it’s clear that the Thunder have put more of an emphasis on Paul George on the offensive end this season.
Not only has George become the Thunders number one option offensively, but he’s also been a defensive stud. Don’t get me wrong, George has always been a great defensive player but this year he’s back to being one of the premier perimeter defenders. Last season George’s DEFRTG was 105.2, this year it has drastically improved and George currently sits at 100.9 ranking him 6th among players averaging at least 30 MPG. The Thunder as a team leads the league in DEFRTG as well at 102.2. Last season they ranked 9th. George is also tied for 2nd in SPG at 2.1 and the Thunder leads the league in that category by a large margin. The difference between the Thunders steals at 10.5 and 2nd place at 9.2 by the Hawks is the same difference as the Hawks and the Rockets, who sit at 16th.
The Thunder look like a legit top 3 team in the tough Western Conference and it has a lot to do with Paul George. Of the top 4 lineups deployed by Billy Donovan this season, all 4 include Paul George, the best NETRTG lineup doesn’t involve Westbrook. Don’t get me wrong I LOVE Westbrook but it’s clear that the Thunder are a better team when George is an alpha. This Thunder team has finally found something, and come playoff time they will be a tough out. If you haven’t taken notice yet, you should. Paul George is not only back, but he’s here to stay at the top of the NBA’s food chain.