While watching the 2010 NBA Draft, this thought probably crossed most fans’ minds as the Pacers announced their choice for the No. 10 pick: Who is Paul George?
Don’t worry, you weren’t alone as Pacers Coach Jim O’Brien uttered the same words during a pre-draft camp in Chicago.
“I was just observing the players and after I got done seeing him, I just said, ‘Who is this kid Paul George?’ ” O’Brien said. “And everybody said, ‘Well, he can play.’ ”
And while the 6-foot-9, 210-pound small forward from Fresno State may be relatively unknown to the public, he was projected as a potential lottery pick, and the Pacers anticipate George to contribute immediately.
George averaged 16.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game during his sophomore campaign, and he also had a strong shot from downtown, hitting just under 40 percent of his 3-pointers during his two-year stint as a Bulldog.
Defensively, George finished his sophomore season with 58 career blocks and 123 career steals.
However, while George did have several games with double-digit scoring, his consistency is one of his weaknesses. George would have games in which he hit 60 percent of his 3-point shots and 50 percent from the floor, and then would only make four baskets during the entirety of the following game.
Additionally, another one of his weaknesses comes on the other side of the ball, O’Brien said.
“I don’t think he is a great defensive player at this point in time,” O’Brien said. “What he does have is very aggressive defensive hands. When I look at college players in workouts, whether we’re conducting them or not, every time you see somebody trying to deflect everything, that’s very important.
“Coming from a mid-major like Fresno to the big leagues you don’t expect him to be a great defensive player right now, but he’s going to be pretty quickly a guy that’s going to be able to play offensive basketball in the NBA.”
But making improvements and changes is something George is used to, and something he has become quite good at.
“This is a great example of how a young man who was not highly recruited out of high school was able to grow and develop his perimeter skills because of his outstanding work ethic and attitude,” Fresno State head coach Steve Cleveland said. “Paul has such an upside and the NBA teams were very impressed with his growth and development over the past two years.”
Pacers President and former NBA star Larry Bird, also praised George’s attitude and drive.
“Paul is multi-skilled,” Bird said. “He can play two positions and with his work ethic, he has a chance to be a very good player in this league.”
George, the highest first-round pick to come out of Fresno State, echoed the sentiments of his prior coach and new team president.
“I feel like I have a lot of potential to continue to grow,” George said. “I feel the sky is the limit. It’s a dream come true.”
With the rest of their draft picks, the Pacers picked up shooting guard Lance Stephenson from Cincinnati with the No. 40 pick, and later with the No. 57 pick drafted Florida State forward Ryan Reid.
Reid, along with cash considerations, was later traded to Oklahoma City for Magnum Rolle. Rolle, a power forward from Louisiana Tech, was originally drafted with the 51st pick.
While the Pacers wanted to obtain a point guard with a draft-day trade, they were unable to complete a desirable trade, and will instead look to gain a starting point guard once free agency starts July 1.
Until then, the new draftees will have time getting accustomed to their new surroundings and teammates, something first-round pick George has already started. George has spent time working out with Danny Granger, as the two are represented by the same agent, Mark Bartelstein.
“I look at Danny (Granger) as a bigger brother and mentor to myself,” George said. “We have been working out and training together out in Los Angeles, so we kind of have a bond, you know, as it is already, so I’m extremely happy to be in this situation and to be with this team and organization, I mean, I just can’t wait to start.”