Did Paul George Make the Proper Name Selecting OKC, Westbrook over LeBron James? – Bleacher Report

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Did Paul George Make the Proper Name Selecting OKC, Westbrook over LeBron James? – Bleacher Report

Did Paul George Make The Proper Name Selecting OKC, Westbrook Over LeBron James? - Bleacher Report

Jae C. Hong/Related Press

A Western Convention coach just lately mused—off the report—whether or not star gamers wished to crew up with four-time NBA MVP LeBron James. It is a fair question to ponder, particularly within the wake of Paul George‘s choice to spurn the Los Angeles Lakers in free company this previous July and re-sign with the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder.

After his Thunder were waxed in overtime by the short-handed Lakers, George’s choice to pursue titles with Russell Westbrook as an alternative of James shall be questioned once more.

It seems as if George made the best name, the final a number of Thunder video games however—a 1-5 stretch during which the once-dominant Thunder protection has all however evaporated. But it surely’s about greater than a comparability between James and Westbrook.

Pairing up with James means successful plenty of video games and the potential of competing for a title. However he additionally will get all the highlight. And if a LeBron crew comes up quick, the blame hardly ever lands on him.

How a lot this factored into George’s choice to stay in Oklahoma Metropolis with Westbrook is unsure. What is understood is what he is acknowledged publicly.

“A very powerful factor is successful a championship,” George stated during a three-part ESPN series previous to coming into free company.

“Clearly, I’ve developed some good relationships with Russ,” he stated throughout a press convention previous to the opening of coaching camp. “Then simply over the course of the entire season, it simply steamrolled, simply bought higher and higher, and right here I’m.”

“Right here” is Oklahoma Metropolis. “There” is Los Angeles. And although George has by no means performed for the Lakers in his profession, he might at all times be linked to them.

        

Unwelcome response

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When the Thunder visited the Lakers for the primary time this season, L.A. followers unloaded a refrain of boos usually reserved for the likes of Kawhi Leonard in San Antonio or Kevin Durant in OKC. They had been exacting revenge after he spurned the Lakers in free company in July.

Granted, it wasn’t a lot of a choice. He by no means entered the free-agent market. He by no means even examined the temperature of it. He introduced his choice to stay with the Thunder moments after free company started.

James did not announce his intention to signal with the Lakers till after George made his choice. But it additionally appeared just like the worst-kept secret within the league. In an NBA the place gamers are extra linked than ever, it is affordable to presume that George made his choice figuring out the place James would find yourself.

The 2 stars might have efficiently co-existed. The Lakers have pieced collectively the league’s sixth-best defense to this point, and George doubtless would have made it much more formidable. His 38.5 p.c success price from deep could be a welcome addition on a Lakers squad starved for constant long-range capturing.

However even when George had gone to L.A., the Lakers nonetheless would unquestionably be LeBron’s crew. In OKC, he can have one of the best of each worlds: taking part in for a title contender and getting nationwide respect for his work.

Paradoxically, eschewing the brilliant lights of L.A. might have allowed him to get extra seen.

         

Gaining recognition

Mark Sobhani/Getty Pictures

George could also be behind Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden and Stephen Curry within the MVP race, however he is being acknowledged for spectacular work that will have gotten overshadowed in Los Angeles.

“He is placing himself in good spots and he is taking part in the sport the best means, as he at all times does,” head coach Billy Donovan stated.

Throughout a six-game stretch with out Westbrook in November, George averaged 26.2 factors, 9.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per recreation whereas capturing 45.5 p.c from the sector and almost 39 p.c from deep. That was merely a launching level.

Since Westbrook’s return Nov. 19, George has averaged 28.0 points per game. He has 15 video games with at the very least 30 factors this season, greater than the 11 he notched all of final season.

Sue Ogrocki/Related Press

George has regarded much more snug and in management than he did a season in the past, when your complete Thunder crew appeared to be strolling on eggshells. This season, the Thunder are a plus-6.3 with George and Westbrook on the ground collectively, up from a plus-4.7 final 12 months.

“I feel that was most likely an enormous adjustment for him final 12 months,” Donovan stated. “Enjoying with Russell, taking part in with Carmelo [Anthony], making an attempt to determine it out. Now the ball is in his arms plenty, nevertheless it’s not in his arms the place he is at all times making a play.”

That added familiarity is paying off for George this season. Had he joined the Lakers as an alternative, he would have needed to endure yet one more season of chemistry-building with a brand new solid of characters. And the modifications doubtless would have continued because the Lakers pieced collectively their squad round James and George.

In the meantime, the 12 months in OKC allowed George to determine how you can greatest influence the sport.

“The best way Paul performs, he will get factors in these flurries the place he can run off 9 or 10 factors actually fast,” Donovan added. “Then he simply will get misplaced within the recreation in a really optimistic means. He simply performs the sport. Will get guys pictures. Protection each possession.”

George is averaging 2.three steals and 3.7 deflections per recreation, each of which rank among the many greatest within the NBA. He is a part of a swarming Thunder protection that averages a league-high 10.three steals per recreation, which makes him a candidate for Defensive Participant of the 12 months, if nothing else.

“He simply likes to play the sport the best means,” Donovan added. “The concept of directing issues at him, like, ‘That is your shot’ or ‘We’re operating this play so that you can shoot,’ he simply would not play like that. And I respect that.”

      

Depth issues

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There’s extra to contemplate past former MVP teammates.

Oklahoma Metropolis additionally options Steven Adams, an All-Star hopeful and among the finest facilities within the league. Ahead Jerami Grant has made vital year-to-year strides since OKC acquired him from Philadelphia in November 2016. Injured guard Andre Roberson was gaining Defensive Participant of the 12 months consideration earlier than a devastating knee harm final January. Guard Dennis Schroder is maybe probably the most gifted backup level guard within the league.

Add in promising younger function gamers reminiscent of Terrance Ferguson and Hamidou Diallo, and OKC has a stable core to work with. Most of that core can also be signed via the 2020-21 season. If the crew begins to get stale, Thunder normal supervisor Sam Presti has proven that he is keen to get artistic and swing for the fences when wanted.

The Lakers even have a younger core, nevertheless it’s largely been propped up by James’ presence. L.A. is just 5-7 since James injured a groin muscle on Christmas Day. Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart have all been good however not nice, and it could be harder than anticipated to bundle a few of them for star assist. L.A. additionally hasn’t completed with a successful regular-season report since 2012-13.

In comparison with the Lakers, the Thunder had extra instant, confirmed property to work with. George additionally had a full season to see whether or not he loved taking part in alongside Westbrook, which he seemingly does.

The Lakers, in the meantime, nonetheless want to determine what they’ve past James. Whereas L.A. is making championship blueprints, OKC’s undertaking was already effectively underway.

The jury is out on whether or not George can accomplish his championship targets with the Thunder over the subsequent few seasons. If he comes up quick, there shall be a crowd in Staples Heart very happy to remind him of what may have been.

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Did Paul George Make The Proper Name Selecting OKC, Westbrook Over LeBron James? - Bleacher Report
Did Paul George Make The Proper Name Selecting OKC, Westbrook Over LeBron James? - Bleacher Report
Did Paul George Make The Proper Name Selecting OKC, Westbrook Over LeBron James? - Bleacher Report
Did Paul George Make The Proper Name Selecting OKC, Westbrook Over LeBron James? - Bleacher Report
Did Paul George Make The Proper Name Selecting OKC, Westbrook Over LeBron James? - Bleacher Report

Did Paul George Make The Proper Name Selecting OKC, Westbrook Over LeBron James? - Bleacher Report

Did Paul George Make The Proper Name Selecting OKC, Westbrook Over LeBron James? - Bleacher Report