It's a fascinating debate raging across the league right now: How good, really, is Paul George? Before his ghastly leg injury, George was a consensus top-10 or top-12 player. Now, he probably won't qualify for one of six All-NBA forward spots. Toss in all the brilliant guards and unicorn bigs, and where exactly does George rank in the NBA's star hierarchy? Was he really worth all the trade deadline agita?
He hasn't played with the same fire this season. Only 13 percent of his shots have come at the rim, the lowest mark of his career. His free throws are down, and he's taking more long 2s than ever. He has ceded some of the creative burden to Jeff Teague, and there are nights when he just looks a little off.
There is even some evidence that his vaunted defense has slipped. His adjusted plus-minus numbers are mediocre, and opposing players are shooting above their averages when George is nearby, per NBA.com.
He has developed a maddening habit of drifting too far from dangerous shooters when he doesn't need to, leaving them open even on the strong side -- one short pass away:
It's almost as if George assumes he can make up all that distance if he revs into into gear. He can't. He has been too cavalier this season.
But then you remember what he has done in the postseason hothouse. He drilled high degree of difficulty shots on the biggest stage, in the biggest moments. When he gets angry, George transforms into a lockdown defender -- a long, multi-positional weapon, always on his toes, bouncing in sync with his mark as if he's looking into a mirror. He almost single-handedly eliminated a massively superior Toronto team in the first round last season.
When it matters, I'm still riding with Paul George.