One of the most intriguing storylines this coming season will be Paul George’s attempt to return to All-NBA levels. Last summer, he suffered a gruesome leg injury at a Team USA scrimmage in Las Vegas that forced him to miss most of the 2014-15 season, in which he played in just six games for the Pacers, who missed the playoffs in his absence. He’s set to be completely ready to resume at normal levels at training camp, and he has lofty goals for himself in his comeback season. He recently told fans in China that he wants to win MVP.
“After being drafted into the NBA, I was playing from the bench and then tried to be a starter, then an All-Star. My goal now is set to be MVP. This year, that hasn’t changed,” George told fans at a Beijing Nike store.
The Pacers team that George returns to will look vastly different from the last time he was fully healthy. Lance Stephenson is long gone, David West left for San Antonio and Roy Hibbert was traded to the Lakers earlier in July. George and point guard George Hill are the only starters left from the group that made the Eastern Conference Finals two years in a row in 2013 and 2014. They’ve made some solid moves this summer, drafting Myles Turner to replace Hibbert and signing Monta Ellis to help George with the scoring load. But without knowing what George will look like after missing essentially a whole season, it’s hard to project them as a contender, and the MVP typically comes from one of the top teams in the conference.
Regardless of George’s chances of winning the actual award next spring, though, it would be a fantastic story if he was able to get himself back into that conversation as one of the top five or 10 players in the league after the injury he dealt with this year.