George is one of only four players in the East to average at least 22 points and six rebounds while shooting 45 percent from the field. The other three names on that list — LeBron James, Jimmy Butler, and Giannis Antetokounmpo — already comprise the squad’s starting frontcourt.
Nevertheless, with his numbers having dipped slightly from his 2015-16 career-season and the Pacers continuing to cling to their consistent inconsistency, George’s fourth selection wasn’t exactly guaranteed. Ultimately, the coaches, who are nightly tasked with accounting for opposing players, opted for George over Joel Embiid and Andre Drummond. This seems to match the opinion of his peers, since Indiana’s star finished fourth in the East in player voting last week.
Much has been made of George’s supposed listlessness and distaste for boo birds of late, but there’s no denying that the team has been rudderless without him. Indiana’s offense is a team-high 7.8 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor as opposed to the bench, and he’s been forced to play the entire second half twice in the last four games in order for his team to even have a chance of clawing their way out of sizable double-digit deficits. Tellingly, the Pacers are currently the worst second quarter team in the league, which just so happens to be the frame in which George averages the fewest minutes.
“He’s definitely an All-Star,” point guard Jeff Teague told the Indy Star’s Jordan J. Wilson prior to tonight’s announcement. “Best player I’ve played with. He’s a tremendous talent. We’ve just got to do a better job of helping him get the wins. He’s definitely deserving of being an All-Star.”
George is the third Pacer to earn at least four NBA All-Star selections, joining Reggie Miller (5) and Jermaine O’Neal (6). Along with Indiana’s two-way star, the East’s bench will be loaded with talented guards. Kyle Lowry, Isaiah Thomas, John Wall, and Kemba Walker all made the cut, which means both wild card spots went to backcourt players. The other two guaranteed frontcourt spots went to Kevin Love and Paul Millsap. It’s possible that Embiid’s minutes restriction may have been a sticking point for the East’s coaches.
The West’s roster will be rounded out by Russell Westbrook, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Gordon Hayward, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, and DeMarcus Cousins.
The NBA All-Star Game is set for Sunday, February 19 at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, giving George plenty of time to catch Myles Turner in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night and Glenn Robinson III in the Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday.