I’m not sure how you feel about it, but to me, basketball is an art form. The offensive scheme to defensive pressure. The crossover to the in and out. From the blocked shot to the well-timed layup. There’s nothing more aesthetically pleasing in the world of sports than a well-played game of basketball.
In the NBA, you’ll find that on any given night in any given game. These are the best of the best basketball players in the world. Even in the trough of subpar teams, you’ll always find one player here or there that plays the game in a beautiful way. There’s always at least one.
And it’s hard to find one player in the league that plays the game in a more charming or appealing way than another. It’s really hard to decipher what you like in a league filled with players that possess elite skill.
But every few years or so, there’s one player that rises up from the scrum of those that play on the game on a lower tier than the best players in the game and mark their place among the NBA’s elite. This year, that player has been Paul George.
Sure, George was an All-Star last season, so he was obviously doing something right. His game has consistently improved since he was a rookie in the NBA. Take a look at this chart below.
George’s offensive rating has hovered around the same area, but his net rating has increased year after year. And this year, his offensive rating is the highest it’s ever been. That’s because of his improved offensive game.
Now, George is more comfortable handling the ball than ever. His shot chart has benefited because of it. He’s shooting 47% from the floor after shooting only 42% last season. George has made consistent improvement in pertinent offensive skills, expanding his repertoire and making him harder to defend.
He’s become a difficult shot maker, and that’s evident from his shot chart this season. Take a look.
Paul George doesn’t have any red on the shot chart above. Yellow represents league average shooting and green is above average. George shoots green from the midrange–the NBA’s version of alcohol–and yellow from everywhere else. As a result, George has become one of the better offensive players in the league.
Take a look at George’s chart from last season.
George is shooting almost 10% better from the midrange area than he was the season before. The same goes for George in the painted area with the exception of the restricted area. The improvement by George from those two areas has been what has propelled him into superstardom. But the reason why is evident when you look at George play. He’s gotten far better at creating his own shot.
George wasn’t a great creator last season. His usage rate shot up last year and he wasn’t really prepared for it. With Danny Granger out for most of the season, the Pacers needed him to ramp his offensive production up in a pinch. He really wasn’t prepared to do that last season.
Now, after a season of being an offensive focal point under his belt, George came back into this year knowing what to expect. This was highlighted by Zach Lowe when he wrote about Paul George’s improvement offensively. George said that he worked on lowering his handle and he improved himself in pick and roll situations.
His play on the court attests to this. And his improved handle could be the key to why he’s so good from the midrange. George’s go-to move is coming off of a high screen and reversing his dribble to the middle of the floor. From there, he sidesteps or steps back away from the defender to get up a shot that is almost impossible to contest with George’s wide frame.
Watch as George comes off of a pindown screen here, receives a screen from Hibbert and then goes back to the middle of the floor.
Batum plays George too aggressively and allows him an easy catch after a cut. He gets caught into the Hibbert’s screen and that leaves Robin Lopez on an island with George one on one. George goes to the left with one dribble. George dribbles to his right and takes a long stride to create space between he and Lopez, then rises up for a jumper that is smooth as silk.
We can see the same thing here against the San Antonio Spurs from the other night. George tries his pet move against one of the better front court defenders in Tim Duncan. It’s the exact same look as in the video above. Duncan gives George a little less space, so George takes another dribble to step back and drill the jump shot.
Take a look at the same play, but in slow motion. You can check out George’s stellar foot work as he makes his move away from Tim Duncan.
There’s just about nothing you can do with that. When talking about efficient dribbling, George got to his favorite spot on the floor from the opposite wing in just three dribbles. George has made a living off of this motion and it’s showing this year.
It shows in the numbers, too. George has improved as a scorer off of the pick and roll according to Synergy Sports technology. He scores .84 points per possession off of the pick and roll as a ball handler. That ranks 36th in the NBA this season. What’s more, 22% of his offense is coming from the pick and roll as a ball handler. And teams will generally allow players to take those shots off of screens because it’s a midrange jump shot and normally difficult to hit. George has made it a thing of ease.
Hibbert is a beast screening and taking his defender out of the play. It essentially sets up a one on one with George and a big. George’s shoulder shimmy is along the ilk of a Chris Paul or a Gilbert Arenas when he was in his prime. It’s one of the top moves in the league at this point, mainly because of George’s size and stride.
And if that isn’t enough for you, George is almost impossible to predict or keep up with off of the ball. Because of his long strides, he can lose defenders quickly. Look at how he just reverses this cut on a dime and gets an easy two points with no one at the rim.
Not only is George good, but he’s smart with his motion. His movements don’t have waste and will ultimately result in points almost half of the time. He’s one of the best players moving off of the ball, and coupling that with his skill that he has developed on the ball makes him almost unguardable.
Just look at how George moves off of this ball screen as he flashes to the wing for a three point attempt.
You can track his motion and see how his feet move. His strides take him away from the defender it only takes him just a step to get settled before launching his jump shot. George’s motion is something of beauty and not many players in the league have the ability to mimic this. George is something special.
In a league of talented players, George has emerged this season as one of the best. And that isn’t even taking into account his defensive prowess. He’s the type of player that you want your kids to watch to learn how to play the game.
He’s a player who doesn’t really need a play called for him, but will always be a threat. He’s a player that, even if he didn’t know how to dribble, he would be good at basketball. And this, ladies and gentleman, is how the game is supposed to be played.