Paul George suffered a horrendous injury playing in a scrimmage in preparation for the FIBA Basketball World Cup. George was pretty much a lock to make the roster and wasn’t playing particularly well in the scrimmage. But, as always, George gave a full effort of the defensive end and tried to make a play on a James Harden layup in transition. The rest is history.
So what does it all mean? It’s a lot to take in at this point, and what comes first is George and his family. The injury seemed to be on Kevin Ware levels and is going to take a massive rehabilitation effort from George to come back from. Years ago, this may have been a career ending injury for George. But with medical technology the way it is now George has a chance to come back and be productive.
USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo called George’s situation a unique one. The organization has never seen anything this serious happen to one of their players. “It’s a first for us in USA basketball to have something like this take place,” Jerry Colangelo said about George’s injury. “We need to just take a step back before we do anything at all. Our primary concern is Paul George.”
As far as roster movement, Colangelo wouldn’t tip his hand on any final decisions because he said he wasn’t thinking about them. “I want to reach out to the Indiana Pacers organization,” Colangelo said. “As an organization, we’re just going to let time go by before we address anything like rosters.”
That’s a very understandable standpoint to take. It’s hard to think about things like roster moves and cuts when a player’s career is in balance. George’s injury is a very serious one. Players were visibly distraught by what happened to George. No one is ready to make a move right now, and that’s OK. “No decisions are going to be made tomorrow,” Colangelo said. “We need to step away.”
It’s a safe bet George won’t play NBA basketball next season and he certainly won’t be playing in this World Cup. The United States is still a favorite to win the competition, but with George, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love all out of things the path gets much harder. It isn’t a lock they’ll be able to get passed Spain once the sides finally meet. The size in their front court with Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol and Pau Gasol is unforgiving. George wouldn’t have helped with their size, but he would’ve been able to play both forward positions at a high level on both ends and pose match-up problems for teams who went big.
The United States team is going to play small and fast for a majority of the time, but without George they lose a skilled player to contribute to that. The immediate thought is that DeMar DeRozan, Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward are all competing for these spots. DeRozan played well throughout the scrimmage and Hayward had a nice outing himself. They all have a similar skill set with a few differences. Parsons is the better shooter, DeRozan the better scorer and Hayward the better playmaker. But they’re all suitable fits on the offensive end as role playing stars off of the bench.
But none of them have the skill to replace what George did on the defensive end. Parsons and Hayward provide some size from a combo forward standpoint, but they aren’t bulky forwards and are vulnerable to the good post play Spain has. This injury makes it more crucial for the team to select the best big man whether it be Demarcus Cousins or Mason Plumlee.
For the Indiana Pacers on the floor, they’re losing a player they can’t really replace. George is the best two way player on their team and one of the best in the league.
Coupled with the loss of Lance Stephenson, they’ve all but completely lost their offensive production. George and Stephenson had a combined usage rate of 47.7 percent. They’ve lost their leading rebounder, playmaker and scorer in a span of just over two weeks.
They’re going to still be a solid defensive team. Roy Hibbert will still be protecting the rim and David West is still a great pick and roll defender. But finding the offensive replacements for Stephenson and George is something almost impossible to do. In an incredibly unstable Eastern Conference, the Indiana Pacers fall further down to the bottom after being a the top just a year ago.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are now distinct favorites in the conference with the Pacers losing two of their top players and their addition of LeBron James. The Chicago Bulls’ and Washington Wizards’ path just got a bit easier, the Miami Heat still look like they can be a top three seed in the conference and the rest of the pack have a better shot at moving up.
For the Pacers monetary situation with George entering a new extension, George will remain fully covered. His salary is fully guaranteed at $15.8 million dollars next season. The Pacers will get 80% of George’s salary back should be miss 41 games next season, according to ESPN’s Darren Rovell. The team gets $154,000 dollars every game after the 42 game George misses. In total, the team will get back $6.3 million if George misses the entire season.
The Pacers can also apply for the Disabled Player Exception. The Brooklyn Nets did this last year with Brook Lopez’s injury. Should the Pacers do this and be granted the exception by the league, they’ll be able to sign a player to either 50% of George’s salary or the amount of the non-tax payer mid-level exception. Since the mid-level exception is less, that is the amount the Pacers will get.
The Pacers have to apply for this exception by January 15th, before it is no longer available to them. If George were to come back from his injury sooner and be activated, the Pacers wouldn’t lose the player that they signed with the disabled player exception. Both, that player and George, would be available for action.
Paul George’s injury shifts the basketball landscape across the globe, but we’re all hoping that he returns to the game sooner rather than later and stronger than ever.