That shouldn’t be hard, considering he’s the NBA’s best player – at least according to him.
George, via Sam Amick of USA Today:
“Honestly, I feel like I’m better than the Paul George I was (before),” George, who played sparingly and cautiously in the Pacers’ final six games of last season, told USA TODAY Sports. “I do understand that I’m coming back as a fresh new player, with a new team, but I’m not limiting myself. I still have the aspiration of being the MVP, still have the aspiration of being one of the best defenders, one of the best scorers in the league. All of that is still there. But now I just feel like I’m much … wiser. I’m a better ballhandler, a better playmaker. I just feel like everything is just enhanced having a year out from the game.
“Myself,” he said when asked which player enters this season as the best of them all. “I honestly feel that this is my time to prove it. There’s always going to be people’s opinions. There’s always going to be people thinking otherwise. But this is my time to prove it, and I’m ready. I’m ready to show the world.”
If George picks up where he left off before his injury, he could work his way into the MVP discussion. I don’t think he’ll reach LeBron James/Kevin Durant/Anthony Davis production, but he could. We’ve seen it.
Stephen Curry rose from a similar level to win MVP in 2015. That type of growth is rare, but it’s obviously not unprecedented.
George’s injury concerns me, though. So much of his game is based on athleticism. He’s a smart defender, but his athleticism puts him on another level. He has worked hard to develop his offensive skills, but his athleticism allows him to finish at the rim on his dribble drives there. And the threat of those drives open those outside shots.
George didn’t look like himself in his brief run late last season, and that’s understandable. But he must show his athleticism remains in tact before I take this MVP/best-player talk even remotely seriously.