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NBA Power Rankings: Paul George is the great equalizer

George’s two-way talent has the power to diminish doubts about Indiana’s talent-over-fit roster.

NBA: Preseason-Indiana Pacers at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Exhibition play rarely informs on the regular season, but one particular trend, should it continue, could end up throwing cold water on Indiana’s pace minus space experiment. Take the team’s final preseason game against the Bucks for instance. The Pacers committed 12 fewer turnovers than Milwaukee and scored 12 more fast break points, but they got obliterated on the glass, 50-34, and shot a woeful 28 percent from three, resulting in a 111-103 loss.

Granted, playing at breakneck speed in contests of zero-consequence tends to lead to tired legs which can result in players guarding with their hands instead of their feet, but this outcome seems to encapsulate the precarious position the Pacers, reliant on speed and conditioning to compensate for lack of off-ball threats and potentially leaky defense, have the potential to be in this season.

Still, despite legitimate concerns with floor spacing and defense, Myles Turner was impressive, Glenn Robinson III made a case for playing time, Thaddeus Young showed he has some point forward in him, Rodney Stuckey looked more like contract-year Rodney Stuckey than injured Rodney Stuckey, and above all else: Paul George is still arguably the second-best player in the Eastern Conference.

All of which makes it difficult to name many teams that are definitively better than the Indiana Pacers. George’s two-way stardom has the potential to be the great equalizer in the East. That notion is reflected in this week’s power rankings.

NBA Power Rankings: How long can the Cavaliers keep the No. 1 spot? —

Overall Rank: No. 8

Rank in East: No. 4 (Behind Cleveland, Boston, and Toronto)

Marc Stein seems confident that if Paul George can “thrust himself into the MVP race,” the need for Myles Turner to put forth a breakout season combined with lingering questions regarding Jeff Teague’s fit alongside Monta Ellis will be less of a sticking point.

NBA Power Rankings: Warriors, Cavaliers, and Everyone Else —

Overall Rank: No. 12

Rank in East: No. 5 (Behind Cleveland, Toronto, Boston, and Atlanta)

At No. 12, The Crossover’s Jeremy Woo foresees “another huge year from Paul George”.

Power Rankings: Warriors, Cavs poised for third straight Finals meeting —

Overall Rank: No. 13

Rank in East: No. 6 (Behind Cleveland, Toronto, Boston, Atlanta, and Charlotte)

Perhaps the most pessimistic of the rankings, John Schuhmann, calls Paul George a “star,” but questions whether trading defense (Frank Vogel, George Hill, and Ian Mahinmi) for offense (Nate McMillan, Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young, and Al Jefferson) will produce a net positive or negative effect, which he notes Myles Turner’s development will have to resolve.

NBA Power Rankings: Warriors open 2016-17 on top; high hopes for Celtics — CBS Sports

Overall Rank: No. 11

Rank in East: No. 5 (Behind Cleveland, Toronto, Boston, and Charlotte)

Matt Moore admits that the Blue & Gold’s lack of spacing is a concern, but has enough faith in Nate McMillan’s ability to make it all work that he remains high on their potential. Bottom line, he says, “Paul George is the difference in about ten spots for them”.

NBA Power Rankings: Week 1 — Yahoo Sports

Overall Rank: No. 9

Rank in East: No. 4 (Behind Cleveland, Boston, and Toronto)

Jonas Nader likes the combination of Indiana’s new style, reinforcements, and coach. Of course, Myles Turner looking like “the real deal” and Paul George “reestablishing himself as one of the best two-way players in the league last season” helps, too.