The Oklahoma City Thunder made perhaps the most significant moves of the offseason by acquiring both Paul George and Carmelo Anthony in separate trades. They acquired George in a trade with Indiana for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Once the Thunder acquired both of these star players to pair with its very own star player Russell Westbrook, people figured it would be a super team. Most experts had the Thunder as one of the top four teams in the west, if not the league. It still can be, but it has been a rough start. Right now, the Thunder sits at 6-7, and would not qualify for the playoffs if the season ended today. The good news is there is a lot of basketball yet to be played. The other good news is the Thunder has won two in a row and are starting to look like the team many pictured it to be. OKC has turned it around because Paul George is starting to get comfortable in his new surroundings.
For the season George is averaging an impressive 22.5 points per game, 5.9 rebounds, and 2.6 assists. He has done his best work in the past two games in home wins over the Clippers and Mavericks. In those two wins, George is averaging an incredible 39.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, and six assists on a blistering 56 percent shooting. He is getting it done from behind the arc, as he is shooting 57 percent from deep and 41 percent for the season. These are the numbers that show how talented George is.
He is a Swiss Army knife capable of doing it all. Scoring, shooting from deep, passing, rebounding, and defending — you name it, George can do it. The Thunder envisioned this kind of play when they traded for the former Indiana Pacers star in the offseason. These wins also show that George may be the key to Thunder’s success.
Now the Thunder must keep George going while also making sure Westbrook and Anthony get involved in the offense as well. It is tough keeping three 20-point scorers involved, and that is why the Thunder struggled initially. Right now things are balancing out, as all three are averaging 17 shots per game. Of the three, George is shooting the best at 45 percent. George’s hot shooting shows that he might be the most efficient scorer of the three.
George is an unselfish superstar, a willing passer, and, as of now, is happy being the third option. He knows he will never be the first option with Russell Westbrook on the team. However, maybe he can surpass Carmelo as the No. 2 option. George’s game fits perfectly next to Westbrook. When George is on, the Thunder have won; the other two stars can’t make that same claim. Now that he is feeling more comfortable in the offense, it’s time to get him more involved. George is too talented to stand out behind the three-point line all game. When he is the focal point, George can deliver 42 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists like he did in a win over the Clippers. The Thunder are figuring out that they are at their best when George gets going.
Now that George is getting more comfortable in the Thunder’s offense, the whole league needs to watch out. Sure, there are still issues on this team, like depth, shooting, and making all three stars happy, but they are getting better every game. The No. 1 reason they are getting better is because of Paul George. Getting him going now behooves the Thunder, as they have tough games ahead at the San Antonio Spurs and home against the Golden State Warriors. They will need George at his best to win these games against their western rivals. If Paul George plays as he did in the past two games, the Thunder can beat anyone. He is a legitimate all-star and a complete player in this league.
People, should not panic about the Thunder, they will figure it out, and they have already started too. The bigger question looming over the franchise is Paul George’s free agency. At the end of this season, Paul George will be an unrestricted free agent, and he will be able to sign with whomever he wants. There have already been rumors that he wants to play for his hometown Los Angeles Lakers.
High expectations created pressure in Oklahoma City; George’s looming free agency creates even more pressure. That is why the Thunder must keep George happy this year, so they can convince him to resign in the offseason. It will be a tough task, as Oklahoma City is a small market, and it seems that George already has L.A dreams. However, the Thunder have a winning team. If they advance as far as the conference finals in the west, it will be tough for George to say no. Winning matters to him, and right now, the Thunder have a better chance of winning than the Lakers. Not only do the Thunder have to win, but they also have to make sure George keeps getting his touches.
Even though the on-court chemistry hasn’t clicked quite yet, the three stars seem to get along. They are saying all the right things and are committed to making this work and winning. Another good sign for keeping George long term. Winning, his relationship with the team, and his touches will all be a factor into whether George stays.
As for now, it looks like George has found his comfort zone in the offense. He and the team should only get better. Despite the slow start, they should still be one of the best teams in the conference when it’s all said and done. How far they go in the playoffs will rest on George. He makes the most impact of the three. You saw what he is capable of in the past two games. George gives them a dimension; the Thunder hasn’t had since they had Kevin Durant. George is just warming up, and I think his best is yet to come. Hopefully, for Thunder fans, they will be seeing George at his best for years to come.
[Featured Image by J Pat Carter/Getty Images]