When Paul George broke his leg scrimmaging with Team USA ahead of the 2014 FIBA World Cup of Basketball, it not only put an end to his season but it effectively halted the Indiana Pacers' title hopes. After leading the Eastern Conference in wins in 2013-2014, Frank Vogel's squad were left fighting for the eighth seed, but came up short in a 38-44 season.
While George returned for the final six games, he looked noticeably rusty. He barely played over 15 minutes a game, and averaged just 8.8 points per game on 36.7 percent shooting. At the time, it was unclear if George could regain the same type of production he had once shown.
But through the early portion of 2015-2016, and after an entire offseason getting himself back into playing shape, George is looking much like the two-way superstar he was before he got hurt.
Through 11 games played, George is leading his team in points and rebounds, averaging what would be career highs in both. He’s No. 8 in the NBA with 24.5 points on 43.1 percent shooting, including 41.5 percent from three-point range. After averaging a modest 16.8 points through the first four games of the season George has flipped the switch offensively, scoring at least 26 points in each of the last seven. His season-high came on Nov. 6 when he tallied 36 points on 14-of-27 shooting in a 90-87 win over the Miami Heat.
George has five double-doubles and is averaging 8.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists per night in 36.5 minutes of action. The 25-year-old might even be playing the best basketball of his career. Meanwhile, he has also returned to playing the top-flight defense Vogel has seen from one of the best on-the-ball defenders the NBA has had in the last few seasons.
"He's putting up some big numbers offensively, but every time we put him up on a top guy, that guy just gets cooled down very quickly,” Vogel said last week. “That's why he's one of the best two-way players in the NBA. He's showing that he's back."
George separates himself from the pack with his all-around numbers. In 2012-2013, he ranked No. 1 in the NBA in defensive win shares (6.3) while breaking out for 17.4 points per game, 7.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists. In 2013-2014, he ranked No. 2 in defensive win shares (6.4) while upping his scoring even more, averaging a career-high 21.7 points while remaining consistent fairly consistent with 6.8 boards and 3.5 assists.
Some 15 months after the league lost one of its biggest stars, George is shining bright again. The Pacers are still some ways away from posing a serious threat to the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls, but there are signs of improvement. They’re a humble 6-5, but have won six of eight ahead of Wednesday's game against the lowly Philadelphia 76ers.