A superhero among us
By Jesse Pantuosco, Fantasy Sports Writer
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network.com) - Some superheroes wear capes and fly around Metropolis. Others fight crime in Gotham City.
Some play small forward for the Indiana Pacers.
Well, just one actually.
This hero goes by the name of Paul George, and in case you haven't noticed, he's taking the NBA by storm.
The Memphis Grizzlies would attest to that. George blew up for 23 points and seven rebounds Monday as the Pacers captured a 16-point victory.
That outing came just two nights after George strutted his stuff in Brooklyn against the new-look Nets. He ended up tormenting Jay-Z's favorite franchise to the tune of 24 points and six boards. Three of his five tries from three- point land were successful.
This is what fantasy owners have come to expect from George: 20-plus points and six or seven rebounds on a nightly basis. Some performances will even come with the added bonus of five or more assists, a feat George achieved on back- to-back nights in late October. Not to mention that George's defensive accomplishments (second-team All-Defense last season) have him in the conversation for the best two-way player in basketball.
George has been teetering on the edge of unstoppable for a while now. Since the start of the 2012-13 campaign, George has averaged 18.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 4.3 apg and 1.5 spg in 106 games (includes 19 playoff games). Last season, he was one of four players to average at least 15 points, five rebounds and five assists. The others were Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook, a trio that has combined for 27 All-Star appearances in 32 seasons.
All it took was an eight-game Indiana winning streak for George to finally get the credit he deserves. Even if the Pacers lose their next two, this will be their best start since 2004. That season, Indiana won a team-record 61 games while claiming the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for just the second time in franchise history.
Dating back to last year's playoffs, George has now logged an incredible 10- straight games with 20-plus points. That's the longest current streak in the NBA, if you can believe it. LeBron, usually a lock for 20 or more, was held to 18 last Thursday against the Clippers while Kevin Durant saw his streak of 13 in a row come to an end in a loss to Minnesota.
George's first eight games have been epic to say the least. His 24.9 ppg average has catapulted him to fourth in the league in scoring ahead of familiar names like Carmelo Anthony, Stephen Curry and Blake Griffin. The only time in the last decade an Indiana player has finished in the top-five in scoring was in 2009 when Danny Granger came out of nowhere to put up 25.8 ppg.
As terrific as Granger was during his prime (after two straight injury-plagued seasons, it's safe to say that part of his career is over), he's never been an elite rebounder like George. Through eight games, George ranks third among small forwards in rebounding with an average of just under eight boards a game. The two forwards ahead of him are Carmelo Anthony (9.0 rpg) and Shawn Marion (8.6).
George was just an average three-point shooter early in his career but even that's beginning to change. This season, he's enjoyed a 40.4 percent rate of success on 52 attempts. If that holds, George should have a chance to become the third small forward in the last decade to score 24 or more ppg while shooting over 40 percent from long range. James and Durant are the others.
If you're looking to purchase a George jersey for a loved one this holiday season, you probably won't have to wait in line. Despite his success, George continues to be one of the most overlooked players in the NBA. His No. 24 didn't even crack the top-15 in jersey sales last season.
In a state where Ron Swanson one-liners outnumber championships (Indiana's only Finals appearance came in 2000), I guess that's understandable. But then again, the underdog role has served George well in the past, so why abandon it?
While James and others were considered high school prodigies, George was unable to secure a scholarship from a major Division I school. He settled on Fresno State and left after two seasons of relative obscurity.
George was taken tenth in the draft behind Wesley Johnson, Al-Farouq Aminu, Ekpe Udoh and a slew of others who never panned out. He remains the only player from the 2010 draft to appear in an All-Star Game.
Of course, George still has plenty to work on. His turnover rate is a little high (three per game) and his assists are down from last season (3.6). But if you're looking for perfection, you picked the wrong hobby.
In fantasy basketball, he might as well be Superman.
11/12 17:54:52 ET