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Paul George

Vise Grip: Indiana Pacers Season Preview

(Posting on behalf of MAMBINO contributor AO)

Starting Five: PG George Hill, SG Lance Stephenson, SF Paul George, PF David West, C Roy Hibbert
Key Bench Players: SF Danny Granger, PF Luis Scola, PG CJ Watson
Notable offseason additions: Scola, Watson, F Chris Copeland
Notable offseason subtractions: PF Tyler Hansborough, PG DJ Augustin, SF Gerald Green
FACT OR FICTION: The Pacers are the biggest threat to the Miami Heat 3-peat, East OR West.
FACT. In consecutive seasons the Pacers have gone out swinging, pushing the Heat harder than any team not from San Antonio, TX. In 2012 they lost 4-2 in the Conference semifinals and this year the upstarts boxed their way to a 4-3 bloodbath. Those were also Frank Vogel’s first two full years as head coach and he has undoubtedly established one of the most consistent character teams in the league. A ‘character team’ is one that has an identity. Indiana plays a physical, wear-you-out style night in and night out. They don’t waver. Think of the Chicago Bulls on the defensive end, but with legitimate scoring options on the offensive end.… Read more...

MAMBINO’s Eastern Conference Finals Preview

1) Miami Heat vs. 3) Indiana Pacers
Why do the Miami Heat take this in 5 games?
It was damn near impossible to find a consensus pick amongst the MAMBINO crew—we got votes for anywhere from a clean sweep to a 7 game slugfest. But the overwhelming sentiment was that a Pacers-Heat series couldn’t end in anything besides a NBA Finals beginning in South Beach.
But why? And how? Those are the questions that we seek to divine here on MAMBINO.
The Eastern Conference Finals seems to be a rare case in which the team with the best defense isn’t favored. Head coach Frank Vogel has organized the league’s best D, anchored inside-out by the massive 7’2” inside presence of Roy Hibbert and the wing excellence of Paul George and Lance Stephenson. Like the Chicago Bulls and Memphis Grizzlies, the Pacers rarely leave an open man, thanks to a minimal amount of inept one-on-one defenders, elite shot blockers and fantastic pick and roll coverage. Indiana led the league in defensive efficiency this year, including 5th in forced turnovers and 1st in opponents’ three-point makes and percentage. Even after all that, if the other team DID happen to get off a shot, they’d have to contend with the Pacers’ number one ranked rebounding. In short, if any team is going to score on Indiana, they’re going to have to hit a difficult shot, make their free throws and do all of that without second chance points.
So how could a team like this only win 49 games? Simple—they can’t score.… Read more...

Paul George Must Emerge – Indiana Pacers Preview

Starting Five: PG George Hill, SG Paul George, SF Danny Granger, PF David West, C Roy Hibbert

Key Bench Players: PG DJ Augustin, SF Gerald Green, PF Tyler Hansbrough, F Miles Plumlee, C Ian Mahinmi

Notable offseason additions:
PG DJ Augstin, G Sam Young, C Ian Mahinmi

Offseason subtractions: PG Darren Collison, SF Dahntay Jones

Which team is the Indiana Pacer squad you should be looking for in 2012-2013? The unglamorous, boring blue-collar team that you see laid out before you whose pedestrian roster is due for regression? Or the underrated team of scrappy young players where every player’s contribution hold equal weight of importance, a la the 2004 Detroit Pistons?

The answer is that this team is still really damn good. Shortly before when we last saw the Pacers, they were up 2-1 with a near 20 point blowout of the eventual champion Miami Heat. To make matters worse, their All-Star power forward Chris Bosh had gone down with an abdominal muscle injury on a team with a thin depth chart. Center Roy Hibbert dropped 19/18 on Erik Spoeltra’s boys, seemingly exposing their biggest weakness against a dominant big man attack. So what happened? LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. In the next three games, the two essentially took an R. Kelly-sized pee on the Pacers. Wade averaged 33 points, 7 rebounds and nearly 4 assists, while shooting 44%, and the future Finals MVP James somehow topped that performance with a completely unbelievable 33/8/11 on 55% shooting. The Heat won all of those contests, nearly vanquishing breakout young star Paul George and preventing any further double doubles from Roy Hibbert. Truth be told, the Pacers played fine basketball – the Heat just had two players perform at the peak of human performance. To put it lightly.

Quite simply, this season’s Pacers team’s success depends on two distinct factors: little to no regression from the main rotation players, and improvements from Paul George. Indy had a lot go right for them last year, including nearly zero major injuries to their key guys. George Hill hit the high water mark with 16 missed games, but only a shocking 5 games between West, Hibbert, Granger and Paul George. The Pacers can hope for another nearly flawless bill of health in 2012-2013, but I highly doubt they’ll get it.

More importantly, it feels like almost every player in coach Frank Vogel’s rotation has peaked. Hibbert enjoyed an All-Star campaign, but 13/9 with two blocks per contest seems in the neighborhood of his ceiling. Meanwhile, David West at age 31 is certainly declining and averages of 13/7 seem a bit low, but about in the right range. The Pacer with the longest tenure, Danny Granger, is a one-time former All-Star who everyone always spends four weeks before the season spouting about how this will finally be the year he makes the leap to superstardom. Well, it’s 2012 and I’m still writing about an overpaid small forward who hasn’t distanced himself from Luol Deng, Andre Iguodala, Josh Smith and Rudy Gay. On his best Pacers team of his career, Granger put up his worst numbers since 2007-2008, and at 28 might not ever be better than he was two years ago. Out of all the regulars, George Hill, 25,  is the only other candidate besides Paul George primed for any sort of breakout, but perhaps his lack of size and court vision could limit his growth.

Last winter, all the NBA hoopheads heard about was how Paul George had inexplicably grown two inches in the offseason. Now towering closer to 6’9″, Indy’s 20 year-old swingman supposedl… Read more...

BQ #1 – Who makes The Leap?

These Burning Questions hardly make sense anymore, considering the fact that the 2011-12 NBA season started almost a month ago. But MAMBINO doesn’t quit anything, unless it concerns KOBEsh playing organized basketball (He will use all of his fouls. All of them.).

A common topic used by other people who write on the interwebs is the attempt to find the next great player. Whether it’s a local columnist raving about a player who hasn’t yet stepped onto the national scene, or a fantasy sports writer (nerd alert) advising readers to target a specific sleeper in late rounds, the concept is fairly simple. Who makes “The Leap?”

BockerKnocker: Paul George, Indiana Pacers SF

Let’s start off with a fun fact that I couldn’t possibly have made up: Paul George’s parents are Paul and Paulette George. That’s fantastic.

But back to the business:
George attended Fresno State, where he played for two years before the NBA. He never produced a collegiate body of work worthy of a top-5 selection. In fact, his own school labels him as “the program’s premier free throw shooter, an astute defender, multi-dimensional scorer and leader by example.” You’d think that if your school FIRST describes you as its best free throw shooter, George would be of the Caucasian ilk. But then again, he can do stuff like this:

In his rookie year, George didn’t really make an impact in the box scores: 7.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, and a steal in a shade under 21 minutes per game. He struggled to keep up with the scoring prowess of teammate Danny Granger. Additionally, George often deferred running offensive sets to point guard Darren Collison, despite showing a nimble passing touch since his days at Fresno. But for all of his offensive troubles last year, George was a lockdown stopper on defense. As Indiana made a late season playoff push, coach Frank Vogel inserted George into the starting lineup for the final 24 games of the regular season, providing a defensive complement to the Pacers’ run-and-gun offense. His moment came in the postseason, as he was assigned the task of shadowing Derrick Rose for all 5 playoff games. While the 1-seeded Bulls easily dispatched the young Indiana squad, Rose shot an inefficient 18-57 from the field; a 32% clip is hardly ever, if at all, connected to the league’s MVP. The nation met Paul George during that series, saying hello to a player who used his elite athleticism to become a force on defense (my favorite type of player).

But you can’t make The Leap without improving on both ends of the court. What made me choose George for this BQ was the fact that he lists Kobe Bryant as his favorite athlete. No, I’m not worried that he’ll get all busy in Colorado. The importance in choosing Kobe is that George says that Kobe “works harder than anyone else to be the best.” While nobody questioned his ability to defend on the perimeter, George did consistent work in the offseason with his offensive game, noting that he “didn’t want to be an offensive liability” for the Pacers anymore. And that work ethic has resulted in a favorable uptick this year, through 10 games: improvements in almost every statistical category, including an eye-opening 25% jump in 3-point shooting percentage.

And it’s not just the stuff that he can control, either. George was reported to have grown a full 2 inches, which would list him at 6’10”. Not too surprising until you realize that he’s a freaking swing… Read more...