If Paul George wants to become an elite NBA player, an MVP candidate, he has to get better on the offensive side of the ball. He has to be able to take defenders one on one and score consistently. George ranked 69th in the NBA (minimum 100 plays) in isolation play types with a points per possession of .719, per Synergy Sports. His shooting suffered when isolated as his effective field goal percentage was 37.9 percent, his worst of any play type.
All of the elite offensive perimeter players in the NBA ranked in the top 20 in isolations. From forwards LeBron James and Kevin Durant to point guards Kyrie Irving and Tony Parker, they all posted points per possession over .90 on isolations. Even rookie Damian Lillard and aging Kobe Bryant were in the top 20.
George is regarded as an up and coming superstar, a true two way player that has shown the potential to be one of the next studs of the NBA. His defense is already at an all NBA level. Although he isn't perfect on defense. It is his offense that keeps him from reaching the top tier of NBA players. He hasn't shown the ability to take his man one on one and score consistently.
His first problem was turnovers. George turned the ball over on 14.6 percent of his isolations. Nobody in the top 20 turned it over that frequently. Although Durant had a turnover percentage of 12.4. What allowed Durant to overcome his turnovers was getting to the free throw line. Durant got to the line on 22.7 percent of his isolations.
George only got to the line 6.5 percent of the time, the third lowest percentage of players who had 100 isolations. Getting free throws is an instant upgrade to efficiency, and can help get the opponents’ key players into foul trouble. Getting LeBron James to foul out can be quite helpful.
But all of that is important for George to become one of the best players in the NBA, not necessarily for the Pacers to become the top team in the NBA. Isolations are very inefficient. It was the least inefficient play in the NBA last season. Is it really important for Paul George to develop into a star isolation player?
The Pacers offense stalled at times last year, and a "weakness" of the team was not having a go to isolation scorer, someone who could end a quarter or end an opponent’s run all by themselves. If George developed this part of his game he would erase the Pacers perceived weakness. It is much more effective for the Pacers to go to some type of simple play when the quarter or shot clock is coming to an end.
A lot of NBA teams make the mistake of going to an isolation for their best player late in games, when just about any other type of play is more efficient. So Indiana shouldn't be concerned with George excelling in the isolation. Instead, George should develop his pick and roll, or become more proficient in facilitating after drawing some extra attention.
Looking at the top 20 players in the NBA in isolation, there is a common theme. Lack of NBA championships. Sure LeBron James, Tony Parker and Kobe Bryant have all won multiple titles, but that is it. The other 17 players, including Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Deron Williams have no titles. There isn’t a true correlation to excelling in isolations and winning NBA Championships.
Miami did lead the league in isolation efficiency, but their isolations are designed with three point shooters and post players along the baseline ready to catch and score when left open. Also, they have that LeBron James guy who can be unguardable at times.
While it might be nice for Pacer fans to see Paul George become a much better isolation player, and in turn a stronger candidate for MVP, it could be worse for the Indiana Pacers title hopes.