Oklahoma City Thunder wingman Paul George says both of his shoulders are finally healthy, but can he repeat last year’s performance before the injuries?
Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Paul George was absolutely balling before he injured his right shoulder on Feb. 26 against the Denver Nuggets. As a matter of fact, he was in the discussion for MVP. Some even had him at the top of the list.
Pre-injury, PG-13 averaged 28.7 points a night on 45.3 percent shooting from the field and 40.6 percent from 3-point range. He averaged 9.7 3-pointers a game and shot them at a Steph Curry-like clip.
His pull-up game was deadly, too. 40.5 percent on those shots. Yeah, it pretty much seemed like everything he put up was going to drop like his rating was 99 on NBA 2K19 or something.
OKC was on a roll despite All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook having one of the worst shooting seasons of his career from 3-point range at just 29.0 percent. PG-13’s play on both sides of the ball negated all of that.
OKC was a top-four seed in the Western Conference by the All-Star break and appeared to be a legit contender and threat to the Golden State Warriors. After the injury, though, it was like night and day. He missed four games — three in March and the season finale on April 10.
When George returned, you could definitely tell he wasn’t 100 percent. His numbers dropped significantly. After the All-Star break, PG-13’s numbers fell to 26.4 points on 33.6 percent shooting from both the field and on 3s in 21 games.
But because of the Warrior he is, he played through the pain and made no excuses. He held off surgery until the end of the season. He averaged 28.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game in Round 1 of the playoffs against the Portland Trail Blazers. However, the Blazers won in five and that was that.
He had offseason surgery on his right shoulder. It was later reported that it was on his rotator cuff. But that wasn’t all. He underwent a second procedure on his left shoulder as well. That one was for a torn labrum.
Now that his shoulder surgeries are over with, PG-13 is fully healthy. In fact, he tweeted this out on June 27.
What can we expect from the star forward now that he has two healthy shoulders? That’s the million dollar question.
If what he says is true, expect George to be in the running for MVP yet again. He’s still relatively young at 29 years of age, in his prime and arguably the second-best two-way player in the NBA after Kawhi Leonard.
He put up career numbers in almost every single category last season —, particularly in points, rebounds, assists, steals and field goal percentage. He proved he can compete with the best of them. Although the Western Conference will be much tougher with Anthony Davis joining LeBron James with the Los Angeles Lakers, I don’t see George shying away from becoming league MVP.
He was close last year, finishing third in overall voting behind only Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden. There’s no reason to think he can’t win the award this coming year. The maturation of his game has been amazing to watch. Not only has he developed an overall game, but he’s also taken a big leap when it comes to hitting game-winning shots too.
The narrative surrounding PG-13 prior to last season was that he didn’t have the ice in his veins to knock down the big shot to win the game. He was 0-for-14 on such shots before the 2018-19 season.
But he squashed that narrative quickly, hitting four game-winners last season. They were against the Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets. And we all know hitting multiple game-winners in one season adds more confidence.
Look for PG-13 to have another career season, barring injury. And hopefully, the Thunder will go much further in the playoffs.