Now that the Clippers’ 2020 season has reached its disappointing end, 213Hoops will work through the roster player-by-player for our “Exit Interview” series. Today’s exit interview features superstar Paul George

Basic Information

Height: 6’8″
Weight: 220 lbs
Position: Shooting Guard
Age: 30
Years in NBA: 10

Key Stats: In 48 appearances for the Clippers, played 29.6 minutes per game while averaging 21.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.4 steals, and 2.6 turnovers and shooting 43.9% from the field and 41.2% from deep (on 7.9 attempts per game).

In the playoffs, played 36.8 minutes per game, averaging 20.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.5 steals, and 3.1 turnovers while shooting 39.8% from the field and 33.3% from deep.

Contract Status: PG is due to make $35.5M next season, with a player option for $37.9M in 2021-22. He will likely decline that option regardless of his intention to stay with the Clippers or move teams, as he is now eligible for the larger 10-year max contract.

Expectations

Paul George finished 3rd in NBA MVP voting in 2019, posting tremendous averages of 28 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. His well-rounded offensive and defensive game has been elevated as his career has gone on by the progression of a truly elite skill: high-volume, efficient three-point shooting. In the 2018-19 season, only Steph Curry shot more threes at a higher efficiency (this season, just Duncan Robinson and Davis Bertans bested George in both categories). He was All-Defense and All-NBA 1st team. There was little question what George is capable of.

If anything, expectations for George were slightly lowered coming into this season with the Clippers. Injuries accumulated late in the season forced him to have double shoulder surgery over the off-season, which the team knew would cause George to miss the start of the season and need time to round into form when he became healthy. After having by far the best year of his career in 2019 at 28 years old, every reasonable expectation was that George’s regular season statistical profile would take a step back in 2020 as he recovered from surgery and grew into a new partnership with Kawhi Leonard.

Ultimately, though George is at the level where expectations for him are inseparable from expectations for the team. The Clippers signed the reigning NBA Finals MVP, and in order to lure him, they traded possibly the biggest package in NBA history: quality starter Danilo Gallinari, high-level prospect Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a record-setting five first-round picks, and two additional first-round pick swaps. You don’t push all your chips into the middle of the table like that just because you think a guy is a good player–you do it because you think he’s going to bring trophies to your organization. Years from now, nobody is going to remember if George averages 22 points or 28 points. We’ll remember whether or not he was part of the Clippers’ first championship team.

Reality

George’s expected step back in regular season production played even a little more than expected, thanks to an hamstring injury suffered in January. After missing the team’s first 11 games due to his shoulder recovery and rounding into form during the second half of November and into December, George missed 10 games in January due to his hamstring. As a result, his regular season was choppy and caused him (and his teammates) difficulty getting in rythm: he missed the first three weeks of the season, then played for about two months before getting hurt again, and then returned for five weeks before the season was suspended due to COVID.

All in all, his drop-off in production was largely just a question of volume. George not only played in just 48 regular-season games for the Clippers, but averaged only 29.6 minutes in those appearances. When adjusted based on minutes or pace, his statistical profile is remarkably similar to his 2019 campaign in Oklahoma City. That’s perhaps an encouraging sign for 2020, suggesting that if he returns to 70+ games (with the exception of his rookie season and his horrific leg injury in the 2014-15 season, PG averaged 3 missed games per year coming into last season) and 36 minutes per game he will have a much bigger impact on the Clippers’ next campaign than their last. The most concerning number for PG this year? Free throw rate. In 2020, he averaged just .277 free throw attempts per field goal attempt, a significant decrease from .335 the year before.

When it came to the playoffs, George’s struggles were far more impactful than the aforementioned regular-season drop-off. But I would argue that much of the to-do about “Playoff P” are just cheap-shot memes and lazy narratives. Yes, he struggled in the playoffs, most notoriously in games 2, 3, and 4 against the Dallas Mavericks while struggling with depression, describing himself as being “in a dark place.” If you set aside those three performances as clear outliers influenced by outside factors, his playoff production in his other 10 games is much more respectable: 78-174 (44.8%) from the field, 33-86 (38.4%) from deep, and averages of 22.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game. Against Denver, I would argue that George was the Clippers’ best player through 7 games, including an iconic 32-point, 4-rebound, 4-assist performance while also absolutely smothering Jamal Murray in a crucial game 3 win.

That doesn’t mean he’s beyond criticism, though He also had some bad games, particularly game 7 against Denver. He definitely made some mistakes, like racking up fouls and forcing the Clippers to adjust their rotations. Scoring efficiently outside of his 3-game slump doesn’t excuse the lower volume–22.9 points per game isn’t enough. His postgame press conferences often mirrored the team’s on-court lack of urgency as the Clippers’ hopes crumbled, from his assertion after game 6 against Denver that the team was still in the driver’s seat to his claim after game 7 that this was never a championship-or-bust season.

As I wrote above, it’s impossible to separate the expectations and reality of Paul George vs the expectations and reality of the Clippers’ season. He’s too integral to the team’s on-court product and the franchise invested too much into him for that to not be the case. The Clippers failed this year–not only to win a title, but to even meet the most baseline expectation of a conference finals appearance–and that means that Paul George failed. Not realizing that, at least immediately in his postgame press conference after the team was eliminated, is far more concerning than the phantom “Playoff P” concerns that didn’t really exist outside of that 3-game slump against Dallas. Hopefully the firing of Doc Rivers sent the message that this loss wasn’t acceptable to the organization, and the new coach will instill a bit more urgency in the team next year.

Future with Clippers

Despite some rowdy fans calling for George to be traded, it’s incredibly unlikely. As I just outlined, he wasn’t nearly as bad this season or this playoffs as the twitter memes and talk show overreactions would have you believe–poorly-timed injuries caused lower regular-season volume on similar overall numbers, and he was perfectly fine in the playoffs outside of a 3-game window where he was struggling with his mental health.

There are very, very few players in the NBA who are better than Paul George, and the prospect of the Clippers landing one of them via trade this off-season is exceedingly unlikely. Hypothetical deals for Bradley Beal, Zach LaVine, or some collection of role players would make this Clippers team significantly worse. LAC trading George now would be the ultimate buy-high, sell-low move, and it would make them a laughingstock yet again when he inevitably had a bounce-back year with full health next season and was an All-NBA player again.

The real question for George lies next summer. With George and Leonard both having the ability to exercise their player option and hit free agency, this Clippers core could evaporate as suddenly as it came together–or the two could each re-up on long-term deals that would keep them in red, white, and blue through the opening of the team’s new arena in 2024 and beyond. Only time will tell. For now, it’s in the best interests of all parties to focus on the year in front of them and try to correct 2020’s mistakes to push for a title in 2021.

213Hoops is an independently owned and operated L.A. Clippers blog by Clippers fans, for Clippers fans. If you enjoy our content, please consider subscribing to our Patreon. Subscriptions start at $1 a month and support from readers like you goes a long way towards helping us keep 213Hoops sustainable, growing, and thriving.

Lucas Hann

Lucas Hann

Lucas has covered the Clippers since 2011, and has been credentialed by the team since 2014. He co-founded 213Hoops with Robert Flom in January 2020.  He is a graduate of Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, CA and St. John's University in Queens, NY.  He earned his MA in Communication and Rhetorical Studies from Syracuse University.

92 Comments

  • Avatar Gunna Wunna says:

    This might be nearly as bad as the Lakers Dwight trade or the Nets KG Pierce trade. George is nearing 30, has become a playoff punchline, and says some flat out embarrasing excuse-making claims to the press. Hard to take the Clippers seriously with him on the team. Worst part is LA has no future now besides Shamet and Zu. Good young players, but not even the Pelicans and Nuggets have better young pieces. Hell, the Lakers rookie THT even looks like he could be something. There is almost no hope for this clippers franchise, someone tell Stern to hijack this summer blockbuster to us again

    • Avatar Robert Dailey says:

      Sorry to be so blunt Gunna, but you are just plain off. Read Hann’s analysis again, it is right on. I don’t need to repeat it here.

      Seems like the collapse really crushed your psyche. Buck up. Your doom and gloom narrative is way out of proportion to reality. You might (or might not?) be glad to know this Clippers team is still a contender and there is strong reason to be optimistic.

      • Avatar jbugs says:

        The article leaves out the following points:

        1. This team is not the right team for PG. PG isn’t exactly the guy who is going to make his teammates better. We have too many guys on our team like that to be able to properly utilize PG and make him a top 10 player. In order for PG to be that type of player, he needs to be on a team with much better ball movement and fluidity. For PG to reach his potential on this team, he needs to increase his efg while decreases his utilization (which isn’t so bad to begin with). While we might not be able to trade PG for a higher ranked player this offseason, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t trade him. If we could trade for 2 solid 2-way players who improve our teams chemistry (just as an example, trading PG for SGA and Gallo), it would be worth it to do so due his lack of chemistry with the rest of our core and his prime not necessarily matching up with the window for this team.

        2. His defense is great, but has dropped off to the point where saying he is a top tier wing defender is overrating him a little bit. I would rank the following players higher defensively: Leonard, Giannis, Ben Simmons (who I would absolutely love to trade for), OG Anunoby (how about trading PG for Anunoby, Gasol, Vanvleet and picks), and probably butler. When we traded for PG, I knew the chemistry with Leonard wouldn’t be perfect, but I consoled myself saying “at least we have 2 of the top 3 wing defenders in the league. Who will be able to guard both PG and Leonard if we have both those guys (who could also dominate stars on the other end of the floor)?” in the end of the day, PG has fallen a tier defensively and has gotten a year older at the same time. I don’t want to hear about his injuries/shoulders. We knew about those when Leonard demanded we trade for him.

        3. I hate his attitude. His pouting and arguing with the refs remind me of the bad lob city days. I can’t stand his offensive fouls (of which there were many obvious ones in the playoffs). Having him on the same team as Leonard, who shows no emotions throughout a game, only highlights to me how much I care about body language. As talented as PG is, he carries himself like a loser on most nights. He needs to steady the way he carries himself and his game will follow. He is way too talented and has come way too far in his career (he was never projected to be this good) to act like such a child during games. He is the opposite of last year’s cardiac clippers team in this regard. That team never gave up, never resorted to whining at the refs to get back into a game. That team kept their heads down and chipped away at opposing leads until the buzzer. PG get’s worse over a losing game.

        • Avatar Gunna Wunna says:

          Agreed, I think Gallo and SGA would have fit better with this team (not to mention keeping all those picks). Additionally, for all the “streetlights over spotlights” talk, it was not pleasant to see because this Clipper team (especially PG and Pat Bev) consistently made headlines that went beyond basketball. The Lillard situation was rediculous and made it hard to root for these guys to be honest. The ironic part was the Nuggets more accurately represented the Ballmer campaign that he tried to roll out. Bottom line, a season filled with optimism initially turned into egos and lack of leadership. I don’t see any available coach outside of maybe Lue that is built to lead, yet.

          • Avatar Robert Dailey says:

            Gunna, you blind without a cane. Woulda, coulda, shoulda. You live that way?

            Wake up. KL wanted PG. We know KL might have been wrong, forcing Clips to overpay.

            But that is done. That is gone.

        • Lucas Hann Lucas Hann says:

          I think your 1st and 2nd takes are overly influenced by your third–you don’t like him because of his press conference answers and the rest follows.

          • Avatar jbugs says:

            I’ve literally never watched him in a press conference. I’m only talking about in-game body language. Are you arguing with 1 and 2?

    • Avatar KingAlfonse says:

      THT played all of 180 seconds in the playoffs for them. Chill on him being better than Shamet (much less Zu).

      • Avatar Gunna Wunna says:

        THT is not better than Shamet, I just meant “even the Lakers who supposedly gave up their future for AD have an athletic young wing who can soak up some Bron minutes next season”.

        • Avatar osamu6238 says:

          THT has had some flashes, but I definitely put him in the Terance Mann/Fi mold. A lot left to be proved before you’re relying on him to play any real minutes. He’s played 6 games this year, to consider him like some foundation young player the Lakers have that the Clippers don’t is just crazy. I guess THT is young, which is why you think there might be more upside there, but still the sample size of real NBA action he’s seen is tiny.

          • Lucas Hann Lucas Hann says:

            Yeah, if THT is a guy who is gonna give LeBron rest next year then Amir Coffey is a guy who is gonna give Kawhi rest next year. That’s not a knock on THT at all, I like Amir, but look around the NBA and most teams have potentially promising 1st- and 2nd-year guys on their third string hoping to break through.

    • Avatar osamu6238 says:

      lol, are you even a Clipper’s fan? I guess gloom and doom is par for the course for most Clipper fans, but even this is a bit extreme.

      • Avatar Gunna Wunna says:

        A fan of the franchise, but this team was hard to root for once the season got underway. All the entitlement and distractions. I guess I am more a fan of a hungry team that keeps their head down and works. Will never leave the clippers, but there is a reason teams like the Heat become likeable. Jimmy paid respect to LeBron in all his finals press and put his head down and somehow got two wins that way without his point guard. Imagine if Pat Bev and PG did the same. They painted a target on themselves with their foolish sideshow antics and that was the turning point in my opinion. It’d be one thing if they were young and had better days ahead of them but unless you’re that other LA guy, usually your mid-thirties are not worth that big contract that PG will soon be eligible for

  • Avatar chogokin says:

    PG13 isn’t as good as we were expecting, he has said some cringe-worthy comments since the collapse in the playoffs, and this past season was a failure. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at the reality of our situation going forward.

    Listen guys, there is no putting the toothpaste back in the tube – OKC isn’t miraculously trading us back SGA, Gallo, and all our picks for PG13, and we can’t magically jump to the alternate timeline where Kawhi came w/o demanding PG13. Trading PG13 for a bag of peanuts (e.g. pupu platter involving Zach LaVine) would crush this team’s future even worse than this past season did. Similarly, trading him away for draft picks and future capital (less than what we sent out, obviously) would wreck this team as well, and Kawhi’s departure would be all but guaranteed. If the Clips were going to trade away PG13 it would have to be for someone that would either be an equal in talent (e.g. Ben Simmons) or someone lesser in talent (e.g. Jrue Holiday) but a better fit with the rest of the roster, and both of those hypotheticals are highly unlikely – what are the odds Doc would want PG13, and it sure seems like the Pelicans are dead-set on keeping Holiday.

    At this point our best bet for next year is for the Clips to hang onto PG13, hope he gets right mentally (via a sports psychologist perhaps?), and make some moves around the edges. PG13 was pisspoor in those 3 straight games in the Mavs series and in Game 7 against the Nuggets (but so was everyone), but outside of that he was alright. Meanwhile Bev/Lou/Shamet completely disappeared for prolonged stretches and Trez/Doc torpedoed entire games. If we’re looking at the future, finding a way to upgrade the Bev/Lou/Shamet trio and shedding Trez is a lot more likely, and frankly probably a lot more productive than thinking about what to do about PG13.

    • Avatar sjake says:

      I’m with ya Chogo. PG and Kawhi are studs. We need more disciplined coaching and some more help from the role players and we’ll be fine. This team is going to be in the mix for a championship next year.

  • Avatar Goons 1 says:

    I have 3 issues with him, his post game comments (anytime he talks on a mic if I’m being honest), his knack for picking up dumb ass fouls (on both ends, although some are/were questionable) & his nonchalant attitude but that attitude can be applied to the entire team..

    Did he have his struggles, no doubt, but I too thought he was the best Clipper & 2nd best player in the Denver series.. & IF you don’t think he’s still an elite wing defender, then you might wanna watch again & I’m sure Jamal would agree..

    As for the fit with Kawhi, health & Doc fucked that up more than anything, & even then, they were able to produce.. So NO, he should not get traded but a change in mentality from the entire organization needs to change cuz they all bought their own hype & failed to produce

  • Avatar John Maclean says:

    In retrospect much of what ailed this team was its being modeled after those 90s Bulls teams. The reason Kawhi wanted out of San Antonio was because he wanted greater usage like a Michael or Kobe. After that Toronto playoff run he and the rest of the world actually believed that could be the case. So we put a team around him with PG as the Pippin and Bev in that Paxson/Hodges/Armstrong role. Zu was Luke Longley. Kawhi would facilitate and PG and Bev would play D and knock down shots. While Kawhi did put up career assist numbers he isn’t the all-encompassing Jordan/Kobe/Lebron focal point we hoped for. From there the dominos fell with the buck stopping largely with PG–who looked confused trying to determine whether to be a Batman or Robin to help the team win (=LOTS of iso-ball). This is why GETTING A REAL POINT GUARD is so imperative. Once PG is locked into a purely 3 and D role I think he will return to form. To compete for a championship however this can’t just be a Jeff Teague level player. Rubio at least and if miraculously possible CP3. I think Derrick Rose would just add to the current quagmire.

  • Avatar osamu6238 says:

    To me, I expected PG and Kawhi to take like half a season to gel. With PG missing so much time this year, and then right when they were really starting to look like a cohesive unit, a sudden 4 month shutdown of the season, I’m pretty much throwing the past season out the door. Obviously there are a few things to take away, otherwise you don’t fire Doc Rivers, but when it comes to superstars playing together, I think you have to give them a real season to see if it’ll work.

    • Lucas Hann Lucas Hann says:

      That gel point is important. As I mentioned in the post, he had a really stop-and-start year because of his shoulder injury, then the hamstring injury right in January, then the COVID suspension. Hopefully he plays 75+ games next year and can assimilate a little bit more.

  • Avatar Based Freestyle says:

    I have mixed feelings about PG at this point.

    On one hand, I don’t blame him for the Nuggets series; he didn’t play poorly until Game 7, and there was only a Game 7 in the first place because of Doc and Trez. I also appreciate that he’s one of the only players in the league who was a Clippers fan growing up.

    On the other hand, I’m not opposed to trading him either. He is not a consistent playoff performer, and that’s a problem considering how much we traded for him. Some of the things he’s been saying are also very questionable. It wasn’t a championship or bust season? Really, PG? Your short-term contract and everything we traded away for you say otherwise.

    Now, if we had lost the Mavs series, I would be 100% on the “trade PG” side right now. That was a terrible series for him.

  • Darius Miles Forever Darius Miles Forever says:

    Frank Isola @TheFrankIsola: Dave Joerger, who interviewed for the Indiana Pacers head coaching job, is under consideration to join Doc Rivers staff in Philadelphia, according to a league source.

    • Avatar chogokin says:

      Crap, Joerger was one of the guys I was hoping the Clips would look into if they wanted to go w/ someone w/ previous HC experience.

      • Avatar jbugs says:

        It’s way too early for the Clippers to be considering a white coach. Have you noticed that every single name that has been linked to the Clippers’ process has been black? It appears very important to the franchise at the moment to make that a priority. If they end up hiring a white coach, it won’t be until later in the process, when it’s become clear they made a sincere effort to hire a black coach and exhausted all options.

        • Avatar chogokin says:

          Or perhaps the names they’ve let get out to the press have all been black coaches for this very reason? For all we know they might have also interviewed some white coaches already. Either way, we don’t have enough information/evidence to know exactly what the FO is doing.

    • Avatar osamu6238 says:

      Would be a good hire by Doc if happens. Should’ve brought him here last year. Doc (and Spoelstra) were very complimentary of Joerger on the podcast with Woj a few months back.

    • Avatar Based Freestyle says:

      Doesn’t matter who Doc hires when he’s just going to ignore everyone around him and triple down on his own stubbornness.

  • Avatar dhpat says:

    Wow, I’m glad that we have this forum to “blow it out!” Lot of frustration and anger indeed. I still feel it. (My wife and kid think that I’m nuts).
    Lots of problems to fix, but the essential core of the team and franchise is pretty good.
    I’m glad that Doc has moved onto Philly, but I’m still concerned about our “Team Leader” — is Kawhi going to be that leader?
    What most impressed me about LBJ is his maturity and single mind laser focus on each game and keeping his team focused into that game. We need someone to step up with that kind of focus. Mr. Ballmer is probably pushing everyone like he did at his old job.
    PG13 is a good player, but as one of our members mentioned above, seeing a sports psychologist wouldn’t be a bad thing — nothing shameful in getting some help.

  • Avatar TheGreatestShowman says:

    End of Moreyball.

    Can’t believe I’m typing this but make a play for Harden?

    • Avatar TheGreatestShowman says:

      http://www.espn.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yb76vrzs

      I threw up in my mouth a bit but it makes sense. Fertita wants to save money and we need a better playmaking compliment.

      • Avatar Jonathan Eng says:

        I would do this in a heartbeat.

      • Avatar chogokin says:

        Thanks for making me throw up in my mouth a bit too. I hate it.

        ….from a non-results-based perspective. From a basketball perspective that might actually work out – depends on how insistent Harden is on absolutely dominating possession of the ball. I mean, we all hated watching iso-ball here, and Harden is the *KING* of iso-ball. I can’t remember the last time I saw him move off-ball. Or the last time he went w/o the ball in his hands for more than 5 seconds. Plus we clown all over PG13 for his playoff performance, but Harden chokes in the playoffs every year too (funny what not getting 15 FTAs/game will do).

        Ugh. It’s too early for this. I hate that you’re even making me think about this lol

        • Avatar Jonathan Eng says:

          Kawhi would be the best teammate Harden would have had since KD in OKC if this trade goes down and I think Harden’s game complements Kawhi’s more than PG because you can use Harden as a PG. Plus, he would be a better fit if we don’t trade Pat Bev. Harden’s defense this year was a lot better than in years past, primarily because he didn’t have to expend so much energy on just offense. I think Harden would be able to try a little harder on defense especially on this Clippers team if he does not have to do all the heavy lifting in scoring by himself.

          • Avatar chogokin says:

            I’m less worried about his defense – the Clips have played w/ Lou/Trez, so they know what bad defense looks like. I’m more worried about his holding the ball for 20 seconds while the rest of the team just stands around. The Harden-monopolize-the-ball-system probably wasn’t entirely on D’Antoni either, as his Suns teams had much more ball movement built into their offenses.

  • Avatar Dog Rivers says:

    Ballmer will NEVER recover if Kawhi leaves after next season. They’d be the laughing stock of the league forever. If Ballmer doesn’t have some kind of guarantee from Kawhi that he’s staying, trade him and PG and don’t let those 2 guys cripple the franchise. Blowing a 3-1 series with the Lakers waiting did A LOT of damage and Ballmer should consider playing it safe. There’s no excuses after the Lakers win a title after assembling their roster in 3 hours and every move the Clippers made was to battle the Lakers. Tough decisions to make in Clipper land. Time to be cut-throat , a la Blake Griffin trade if they really want to make it to the WCF and beyond.
    -Pat Bev gotta go. His mouth wrote checks that his game couldn’t cash. He’s not a playmaker and he’s injury prone like a mfkr.
    -Lou Williams has got to be one of, if not THEE worst performers in playoff history. Time to move on from him.
    -Trezz doesn’t help you in the playoffs. He’s too small and can’t shoot.
    Now the man of the hour, PG. He’s a decent player on the court but he always says some weird shit. He’d be better off not saying anything, like Kawhi. Maybe it was the lack of offensive system but he makes some real questionable decisions on the court. His handles are shaky. His shot selection is questionable, especially with leads. He picks up way too many offensive fouls and commits silly ones in crucial moments. He’s constantly looking for the whistle and Lebron treatment as if he were some type of superstar. He’s 30+ and after this contract expected to lock up a five year deal? Sounds like a bunch of red flags. I understand there’s no Kawhi with no PG but they had their chance and blew it in grand fashion.

  • Darius Miles Forever Darius Miles Forever says:

    Ty Lou lmaooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

    We losers

  • Avatar ajk777 says:

    You gotta be fucking kidding me. Promoting Ty Lue and giving him a 5 year deal?!! I’m done with this team. They don’t know what the hell they’re doing and just hired a coach that is nothing more than a meat puppet. He’s NOT a championship winning coach. LeBron helped him out with that. Lue was just riding the coattails of his players.

    Kenny Atkinson would’ve been a much smarter choice. Hell, anyone aside from Rivers would be better than Lue.

  • Avatar TheGreatestShowman says:

    Maybe get the guy guarding PG in the pic as our new sixth man.

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