With the new NBA season nearly upon us, we’re running our annual preseason player preview series. Next up is Paul George, who will play a massive hand in keeping the Clippers afloat next season with Kawhi Leonard recovering from offseason knee surgery.
Weight: 220 lbs.
Years in NBA: 11
Key Stats: 54 games, 23.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.1 steals, 46.7% FGs, 41.1% 3P%
Contract Status: George will earn $39.3 million this season with two guaranteed years left on the extension he signed last December. The final year of the deal (2024/25) is a player option worth about $48.7 million.
On the heels of the Clippers’ first-ever run to the conference finals, individual expectations for Paul George this season are sky-high. With Kawhi expected to miss much of the season, it’ll be up to George to shoulder most of the offensive freight. We saw what kind of damage he’s capable of inflicting as the unquestioned No. 1 option during the playoff run. PG will get most of the credit if the Clips exceed expectations this term. If they don’t, he’ll likely draw plenty of the blame, too.
This will mark the first time since his final season in Indiana (2016/17) in which George will play a starring role by himself. He has occasionally taken a backseat playing next to Russell Westbrook and Kawhi Leonard over the past four years. When the team needs him to take over offensively, though, he has been up to the task. George averaged about 29 points per game in each of the last two rounds of the playoffs on good volume with impressive efficiency.
George will surely lead the team in scoring this season before Leonard comes back, but he’s not necessarily a guy that’s going to suddenly start jacking 25 shots every night. We saw during the playoffs that PG has plenty of faith in his teammates to help him on the scoring front.
George is one of the league’s most gifted individual scorers. He has averaged well over 20 points per game in each of his last seven healthy seasons, which is impressive considering the high-usage players with which he has had to share the ball.
PG is a fluid athlete, but the most impressive part of his offensive game is his efficiency. He’s shooting better than 40% from 3-point range since his first year with the Thunder, and he’s at 38% from downtown in his career. His scoring ability speaks for itself.
George is also an excellent rebounder at his position, and that’s another area in which he stepped it up during the playoff run. PG-13 averaged 10 caroms per game between the Utah and Phoenix series. He’s lethal with the ball in his hands, and his ability as a playmaker is generally underrated.
Think what you want about ESPN’s real plus-minus metric, but he quietly ranked fourth in the entire league in that regard last season, trailing only Steph Curry, LeBron James, and Rudy Gobert. George was slightly ahead of the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, and James Harden, which is no small feat.
His defense has always been recognized as one of his best attributes, as well. George has been named to four All-Defense teams over the course of his career.
PG really doesn’t have many obvious weak spots in his game. The most glaring issue may be durability. He suited up in just 54 of the 72 regular-season games a year ago, which came on the heels of a 48-game campaign in his first with the Clips. Fortunately, most of his injuries have been fairly minor in recent years.
He’s also fairly streaky for a star, and his consistency will be under the microscope as long as Kawhi is sidelined. George has endured some awful shooting performances in playoff games over the years, though he did redeem himself with the most recent postseason run.
He also received lots of well-earned criticism for nicknaming himself “Playoff P” during his time with the Thunder. If you’re gonna give yourself a nickname, at least make it a good one.
If George can keep the Clippers in the mix for a top-four playoff seed in the West with Kawhi out for most of the year, he’ll likely garner some MVP momentum. He’s going to play a massive role all year long, and he’ll be the player tasked with keeping the team afloat. Big year coming up for PG-13.