Sunday, October 13th, 2013 at 12:00 pm  |  38 responses

Top 50: Paul George, no. 13

Indy’s star looks to follow up a breakout season with a dominating one.

by Tzvi Twersky | @ttwersky

“Really, I just want to keep growing and improving.” —Paul George, 2012

Two winters ago, during All-Star Weekend in Orlando, FL, Paul George tried to glow in the dark. The stunt, which took place during George’s debut in the Dunk Contest was a failure, if only because it was hard to spot him in the darkened arena if you were watching TV.

In the days leading up to that Contest, George and I played phone tag as we worked on a short piece I was writing about him for SLAM. At that point, the native of Palmdale, CA, who is as salt-of-the-earth as they come, was still a relatively unknown commodity. The grandest accomplishment on his resume, aside from being drafted out of Fresno State, was being named a participant in the Dunk Contest. (He was also in consideration for a spot in the Three-Point Shootout.)

“It feels real good to get some recognition,” George told me after we finally connected late one night. “You know.”

My, how quickly times have changed.

Back then, George, the Indiana Pacers starting small forward, was a promising second-year player who was best known for his defense, deference on offense and, obviously, dunking prowess. Now, at all of 23 years old, George is on the cusp of stardom—even superstardom. Is on the cusp of real recognition.

If you ask him, as I did at the time, the motivating factor behind George’s blue-collar approach is his upbringing.

“I hear it all the time from my friends back home: They say that I’m living the dream, that I’m living all their dreams,” George said. “When I tell them what I did, when I tell them where I’m at, it’s almost like they live vicariously through me. So that’s really the reason why I want to go hard and why I want to make a name for myself, because there’s a lot of guys that want to be in my position that can’t be.”

Maybe it was his time in Team USA’s training camp last summer. Maybe it was his stellar play all of last season. Maybe it was his electrifying All-Star Game performance in Houston. Maybe it was his spectacular two-way showing in the Playoffs. Whatever it was, something clicked for George in the past 12 months, unleashing the 6-9 uberathlete’s vast potential for the entire basketball-watching world to see.

The question is: Just how good can and will George be? If past improvement is a good predictor of future play, the answer is downright scary.

“I hate when guys try to compare you to other players,” George told me before All-Star Saturday night in 2012. At the time, because of his game and frame he was garnering comparisons to Tracy McGrady and Penny Hardaway. “They’re their own man, and I just want to be the best Paul George I can be. I want to play like a T-Mac or a Penny Hardaway. I want to have those same abilities—those are greats that have played. But I can’t be compared to them. I just want to be the best I can be.”

As the 2013-14 season gets underway, one thing is for sure: Paul George doesn’t have to worry about the Dunk Contest anymore, doesn’t have to worry about glowing in the dark ever again. After all, the ever-bright spotlight is now trained on him.

And the best he can be appears to be pretty damned great.

Where should Paul George rank in the SLAM Top 50?

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2013
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Monta Ellis Mavs SG 5
49 Luol Deng Bulls SF 10
48 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 14
47 Greg Monroe Pistons PF 12
46 Kawhi Leonard Spurs SF 9
45 Mike Conley Grizzlies PG 13
44 Al Jefferson Bobcats C 9
43 David Lee Warriors PF 11
42 Jrue Holiday Pelicans PG 12
41 Anthony Davis Pelicans PF 10
40 Joe Johnson Nets SG 4
39 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 9
38 Kevin Garnett Nets PF 8
37 Rudy Gay Raptors SF 8
36 Paul Pierce Nets SF 7
35 Ty Lawson Nuggets PG 11
34 Pau Gasol Lakers PF 7
33 Al Horford Hawks C 8
32 Andre Iguodala Warriors SF 6
31 Brook Lopez Nets C 7
30 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 6
29 DeMarcus Cousins Kings C 6
28 Damian Lillard Blazers PG 10
27 Josh Smith Hawks SF 5
26 Joakim Noah Bulls C 5
25 Roy Hibbert Pacers C 4
24 John Wall Wizards PG 9
23 Chris Bosh Heat C 3
22 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 5
21 Dirk Nowitzki Mavs PF 4
20 LaMarcus Aldridge Blazers PF 3
19 Rajon Rondo Celtics PG 8
18 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 2
17 Blake Griffin Clippers PF 2
16 Deron Williams Nets PG 7
15 Kevin Love TWolves PF 1
14 Dwyane Wade Heat SG 3
13 Paul George Pacers SF 4

Rankings are based on expected contribution in ’13-14—to players’ team, the League and the game.

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  • DJ

    Paul George is better than Dwyane Wade !? You people are sick.

  • underdog

    The Pacers are packed this year, no question about it. But I’m really curious how the George – Granger duo, and the whole team chemistry will work out. If they mange to set their minds right, they could really do some damage on the east. Can’t wait the season to start.

  • UnsolicitedAdvisor

    Yeah he is. You f*ck.

  • theDankerNuggets

    calm down guys, for this upcoming season yes he will be

  • ctk

    Got Iggy/Deng written all over him ….can score but can’t score enough …gone be more valuable than given credit for cause of his defense ..he just won’t ever join the elite for me

  • spit hot fiyah

    not ranked to 13 is an amazing jump. his defense alone could have him on the top 50 even if his offense was average. if he keeps developing his offense he could easily live up tot his ranking.

  • Rose

    Based on what, Dwyane Wade had a way better season that’s not even a debate, and this season he’s in the best shape he’s been in the last 3 years.

  • shockexchange

    The kid can flat out ball, but can he do it when he’s expected to? With Hibbert, Paul, Granger, et. al., the Pacers won’t be able to sneak up on anyone next season.

  • What A Joke

    PG is good and has upside but he only averaged like 17 being a number 1 option on a team that struggles to score, on 41 percent shooting at that.. Saying that hes better than Dwyane Wade based on him being injured during the playoffs (which he still played well enough in the finals to win) is the dumbest thing ive heard.

  • Max

    This seems to be a bit too high imo.

  • shockexchange

    He gave The Kang the business a few times during the ECF. Everybody has been enamored with Paul since then. He also completely
    disappeared in Game 6 and Game 7 of the ECF, which hurts his case.

  • Nick Holden

    From unranked to 13. Has anyone ever made such a large leap?

  • http://www.netstakeover.com/ Anthony Dixon

    he’s in his best shape? How?

  • http://www.netstakeover.com/ Anthony Dixon

    Paul George is very inconsistent offensively. I don’t know how he’s gonna be better with Granger back.

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    he’ll propel to 2nd team all nba.

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    i think granger off the bench would help out and start lance. If lance can control his offensive bursts. Then pacers have the most dangerous team. Danny Granger is greater 6th man if voegel subs it right.

  • TR

    this is tough for me right now. I’m not sure hes more productive than DWade or Love or Blake Griffin or Al Horford, but hey I dont make the list.

  • ballislife

    We have to remember these are projections. If someone was to project who would be more valuable to their team Paul George or D Wade? Based on last year I would say George has a better projected potential to be more valuable than D Wade this upcoming season considering the age gap. Also, take into account that George has not yet reached his celling. I just do not get why people are so high on D wade he has been subpar in the playoffs twice in a row. One year looked straight trash in the playoffs.

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    come on bro. Historically wade has a better career but just next year. just next season.

  • BugEyes

    I don’t want to sound like a psychotic die hard basketball fan, which I am. I actually caught a few late night televised Fresno state games, and I could tell the moment I watched George he was something special. keep working hard man put a rock on that finger like larry

  • Wrethman

    12. James Harden
    11. Tony Parker
    10. Russell Westbrook
    9. Stephen Curry
    8. Kobe Bryant
    7. Kyrie Irving
    6. Dwight Howard
    5. Chris Paul
    4. Carmelo Anthony
    3. Derrick Rose
    2. Kevin Durant
    1. Lebron James

  • Toni Benz

    game 6 he was the highest scorer, what game did you watch kid

  • shockexchange

    Okay, you disappeared in 2 of the last 3 ECF games Paul. SE’s bad.

  • eric

    Rankings are based on expected contribution in ’13-14—to players’ team, the League and the game. Paul george will contribute more to the pacers than wade will contribute to the heat.

  • Max

    Yeah I know he has all the talent in the world, but he needs to get more consistent with it, and I don’t think he can perform at an elite level for a whole season yet.

  • King David

    Wade sucks now bro….

  • Dfrance

    I’m not confident that Granger will accept the bench/sidekick role. He’s got malcontent written all over him.

  • LakeShow

    This is precisely where I ranked him.

    Although I had Wade ahead of him. PG could have the better season. If Granger stays out of his way.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ben Osborne


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  • Toni Benz

    Iggy maybe but deng, no way! PG is already elite btw

  • Toni Benz

    he is already proving it

  • Toni Benz

    sure, did you not know all his accolades last season? you want me to break it down for you? never mind, just do some researching so you will be well informed and not come up with being ignorant

  • Max

    He hasn’t done it for a whole season yet, so he hasn’t proven it.

  • Nick Holden

    Lol what? How was anything I said negative?

  • Cash Montana

    PG24 will be our league’s MVP this season

  • Cash Montana

    by droppin 20+ each game 35 tonite

  • jb

    paul george is becoming a great athlete who is well respected by everyone in the league. he is part of the next gen of players, he will star in the future of basketball