No trade (yet), but Pacers thrilled with George
June 24, 2010
Two things, right off the top:
# The Pacers drafted Paul George for the Pacers.
# He isn't a point guard, but that didn't douse their enthusiasm about the selection of the 6-9 small forward from Fresno State with the 10th pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday night.
Despite numerous rumors involving trades in the days leading into the draft, the Pacers made it clear they intended to keep George, whose 3-point shooting, ability to create shots and overall offensive game give him a chance to contribute right away.
"We drafted him for us," said Coach Jim O'Brien. "Absolutely."
O'Brien, who doesn't study college prospects during the season – he's otherwise engaged – first became aware of George at the Chicago pre-draft camp.
"I was just observing the players and after I got done seeing him, I just said, 'Who is this kid Paul George?' " O'Brien said. "And everybody said, 'Well, he can play.' "
George has drawn comparisons to Danny Granger and in fact has been working out with the Pacers' star in Los Angeles.
"I'm extremely happy," George said. "I look at Danny as a bigger brother and mentor to myself. We have been working out and training together out in Los Angeles, so we kind of have a bond, you know, as it is already, so I'm extremely happy to be in this situation and to be with this team and organization, I mean, I just can't wait to start. "
Though Granger and George both are natural small forwards, O'Brien envisions playing them together at times while giving him more flexibility to employ small lineups.
George averaged 16.8 points last season at Fresno State and had a career 3-point percentage of .396 in two seasons. He also contributed 7.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.2 steals as a sophomore.
O'Brien believes George has the ability to create his own shot as well as stretch the defense with his long-range shooting.
With five expiring contracts, the Pacers still have assets that can be leveraged to acquire the starting point guard that tops their priority list. In the meantime, they believe they've drafted a player that can strengthen the wing rotation and contribute immediately.
“We’re very happy to select a player who is very talented," said Bird. "Paul is multi-skilled, he can play two positions and with his work ethic, he has a chance to be a very good player in this league.”
George said he's ready to get to work on developing his game for the NBA.
"I think I can help with consistency," he said. "Being 6-9, I can do pretty much a lot of things on the court and I want to take this summer leading up to the NBA season to really work on my game to make sure I'm ready. I definitely don't want to come into a situation where a team that's on the verge of winning and be a slacker."
Though a work in progress defensively, George has the instincts and aggression to become solid in that phase.
"I don't think he is a great defensive player at this point in time," said O'Brien. "What he does have is very aggressive defensive hands. When I look at college players in workouts, whether we're conducting them or not, every time you see somebody trying to deflect everything, that's very important.
"You can talk about lateral quickness, which is very key and he's certainly athletic. But he goes after the ball – he goes after passes, he goes after dribbles, so that's something he's going to have to develop.
"Coming from a mid-major like Fresno to the big leagues you don't expect him to be a great defensive player right now but he's going to be pretty quickly a guy that's going to be able to play offensive basketball in the NBA."
Any mystery about the team's interest in local legend Gordon Hayward was extinguished when Utah selected the Butler star just in front of the Pacers at No. 9.
"He's a heck of a basketball player and he showed up really well here in the workouts," O'Brien said. "Certainly he's a hometown favorite and we wish him well out at Utah. It doesn't surprise anybody in our organization that Gordon was a lottery pick. We think he has a chance to be an excellent basketball player."