Although ranking the top 30 NBA players in today’s game is an incredibly difficult task, The Last Word on Pro Basketball staff has taken it on. Coming in at number 11 in the countdown is Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George.
Top 30 NBA Players
Number 11 – Paul George
Grit. According to Angela Duckworth, the most influential psychologist of the last decade, this term is defined as the “combination of passion and perseverance for a singularly important goal”. Perhaps more so than any player on this list, Paul George’s career manifests “grit”. He has come across a plethora of obstacles in his career, yet he has still managed to establish himself as a consensus elite talent. His work ethic and tenacity are truly commendable.
Paul George was not a major high school prospect. He was a three-star recruit, and he did not receive many Division I scholarships. However, he improved his pedigree heavily in college at Fresno State. As he slowly developed into an excellent all-around player, he became more and more hyped by sports media and scouts. After finishing his career as the greatest player in Fresno State history, George was selected by the Indiana Pacers with the 10th overall pick.
George’s first two seasons were solid, but it wasn’t until his third season when he established himself as a truly elite player. However, after a brief run of stellar play, George suffered a compound fracture in his left leg and did not play for the majority of the 2014-15 season. His injury coincided with a sudden worsening of the Pacers roster, and he returned to a subpar Pacers team. After prolonged displeasure with his team’s situation, he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Here, George really began to flourish, and he emerged as a formidable outside shooter. Led by George and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder reached the playoffs in consecutive years but were sadly never able to advance past the second round. Prior to the 2019-20 season, he was then traded to the Los Angeles Clippers to play with reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.
Paul George is one of the best two-way players in the league. His all-around ability is quite impressive, and he plays with a high motor on both ends of the court. These are some of the biggest reasons that he was nominated for both the 2019 MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. Also, his measurables are elite, especially with a long wingspan and 6’8 frame.
On offense, George is versatile and extremely well-rounded. He was among the best in the NBA in three-pointers by volume, as he ranked third in three-pointers made for the 2018-19 season. However, George is not solely a three-point sniper. He has an above-average burst and does not struggle to get to the rim. Additionally, George has become a better passer, especially with the Clippers. He has outstanding vision and playmaking IQ, and he helps to relieve pressure from Leonard. In this way, George has a significant off-ball presence. With his passing and shooting skills, teams can simply not afford to leave George open.
On defense, George is also among the NBA’s best. George’s defensive versatility is particularly important given the “small-ball” trend of the NBA. He can defend multiple positions, and he excels in preventing spot-up shooting. Additionally, he led the league in steals in 2019, as well as in loose balls recovered. This highlights the extent of George’s “grit”, and it demonstrates how he gives it his all in every game. George’s strengths show exactly why he ranks high in the top 30 NBA players ranking.
Though he does have a superb all-around game, George has a couple of weaknesses as well. First, he has struggled to lead his team during the waning seconds of a game, especially this year. Out of 225 players who took 25 shots with less than four seconds on the clock, George ranks last. This in particular does not bode well for the Clipper’s playoff hopes.
Additionally, George needs to work on consistency throughout the season. He always seems to start out well, but he often plays worse in the second half of the season. This was particularly evident in the 2019 season when he shot 40 percent on field goals.
Surprisingly, the Clippers perform very similarly when Paul George is on the court and when he is off the court. There is virtually no change to the Clippers’ offensive and defensive rating, and the team’s pace actually increases. This is largely due to George’s poor catch and shoot play. The most noticeable decline is in George’s poor isolation shooting percentage, which has accordingly decreased his overall offensive effectiveness. Since George was an excellent three-point sniper last year, his sudden inability to shoot from downtown exemplifies his aforementioned inconsistency.
George has won a number of accolades during his long basketball career. He is a four-time All-NBA third team nominee, one-time All-NBA first team nominee, and has made a total of 4 All-Defensive teams. George has been an All-Star in every available year since his breakout third season, making six All-Star teams total. In addition, he won a Most Improved Player award during that 2013 breakout year.
Overall, George is extremely unique among NBA players in that he has a multitude of offensive and defensive awards. With his transition to a playstyle more based on IQ and less based on athleticism following his horrific 2014 injury, it seems that George should be able to play at a high level for a very long time. Despite his struggles this year alongside Leonard, there’s no reason not to expect George to continue receiving recognition for his two-way talent for the foreseeable future. George’s accolades will continue to grow, as will his ranking among the top 30 NBA players.
Last Word on Pro Basketball Ballots
We believe in full transparency in the top 30 NBA player rankings so we are going to disclose the ballots of our player rankings and where each contributor had each player ranked.
Chase Gage – Managing Editor – 11th
David Knight – Marketing Manager – 10th
Zack Kircher – Associate Editor – 12th
Matthew Waldman – Associate Editor – 16th
David Ward – Author – 17th
Avinash Chauhan – Contributor – 12th
Adam Zigner – Contributor – 15th
Albert Dadson – Contributor – 12th
Dylan Guest – Contributor – 15th
Raheem Bashir – Contributor – 9thi
Nathan Levine – Contributor – 12th
Bill Huan – Contributor – 11th
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