As the NBA has become about spacing and the threat of the three, a lot of the power has gone out of the power forward position. There are still a handful of old-school beasts at the four spot who do their damage near the rim — Zach Randolph, Kenneth Faried, Derrick Favors — but now even some of the guys with power can drain threes (Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin) and spend more time on the wings than on the block.
In that world, on a team that wants to be part of that future, Paul George as a power forward made sense. While it took a while for him to come around to it, George is on board now, as he told Steve Aschburner of NBA.com.
“Yeah,” George said, followed by a sigh. “At one point, it was hard to wrap [my head around] everything. Here I am coming back from a big-time injury and wanting to get back to what I used to be, playing the three. Then I come back playing a stretch four — it took a toll on me mentally.
“But the more we’ve had practice time and I’ve had sit-down moments with coach and with Larry (Bird), the more at ease I’ve felt about the situation.”
This preseason he has averaged 18.7 points and 6.3 rebounds a game, he’s shooting 39 percent from three, and most importantly he is moving very well and showing that old bounce in his step.
The big question about George at the four has always been defensive — can he match up against a true four. However, through much of the preseason coach Frank Vogel has cross-matched him more on threes and twos, and then on the other end forced teams to adjust to them.
The George at the four idea was always going to be bit situational — he’s going to struggle against Griffin or Davis or LaMarcus Aldridge. Everyone does, and the Pacers will have to adjust for those matchups. But most nights, he creates a lot of challenges for the Pacers’ opponent to solve.
The Pacers are fully committed because they see this as good for everyone, as coach Frank Vogel explained.
“It’s also not just about him either. But if he’s at the four, you’ve seen already that Ian Mahinmi becomes a better player when he’s in the paint with more space. Monta Ellis is going to get to the basket more because Paul George is at the four and he has more space. George Hill is going to get to the basket. C.J. Miles, when they chase him off pin-downs, has more room to get to the basket and use more space.”
It’s worked out pretty well in the preseason. Now it’s time to see what happens when the games matter and opponents throw their best lineups at the Pacers.