“Paul George has become a legitimate candidate for MVP, MIP, and DPOY.”
-Brina Windhorst (ESPN)
This quote from Brian Windhorst of ESPN explains the incredible comeback and superstar caliber season by PG13. He is averaging 28.6 PPG, 4.2 APG, 8.1 RPG, and 2.3 SPG and is helping Russell Westbrook in leading the Thunder to a top three seed in the loaded Western Conference. He has become one of the front runners for MVP as well as DPOY, because of his quickness, quick jumper from mid range or three, and size to guard bigger forwards (ex. LeBron, KD, Giannis, Kawhi). His effort on the defensive end has been unmatched this season, despite always being stuck on the teams best wing player.
The Most Improved Player award could go to a handful of different players and although it appears that MIP is more out of reach for Paul George than DPOY or MVP, he averages 6 more ppg, 2 more rpg and 1 more assist on better percentages from the field than he did last year with the Thunder; needless to say, his improved role in the offense is actually substantial. Although their are other candidates such as Pascal Siakam, D’Angelo Russell, and Buddy Hield; Paul George’s impact to the thunder extends to the defensive end as well. George has elevates the thunder defense to a top five defense in the NBA, and offense this season also being able to close multiple games out for the thunder shows examples of why PG could win the MVP and MIP although unlikely.
Playoff P, as many refer to him, is now the frontrunner for DPOY (-250) Rudy Gobert behind him (+300) and then the Greek Freek (+1200.) His perimeter defense has been the best in the league, as well as his game inside. He’s ranked first by ESPN right now, yet as most would predict, Gobert is leading statistcially; as big centers usually put up stat padding defensive numbers. Even though this is true PG still ranks 13th in DRPM (1st for players who isn’t a PF/C). Listen to this though: he is leading the NBA in loose ball recoveries, steals per game, second in deflections per game and 4th in DWS. Because of the shift in 3 point shooting over the last couple years, perimeter defenders in today’s NBA have become more valuable and because of his perfect size at 6’9”, quickness and overall defensive IQ while being able to guard more positions makes me give him the edge in the race for DPOY.
Lastly, but the most important, is the MVP trophy. There are three candidates as of now: James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo and MVPG. This is still a three man race, but for many different reasons my rankings would be George, Giannis, and then Harden. PG should win the MVP because of how much he affects the thunder as a whole. He ranks highest in the league in +/-, as the thunder are +8.6 when he’s on the court and -8.7 when he is off! This ranking is the highest in the league with a total of a +17.3 net rating. He does this while also leading the league in RPM. (players estimated on court impact on team performance) PG and Giannis are behind in scoring obviously because of Hardens scoring streak and what has continued after that explosion, but because of his usage rate and how often the ball is in his hands, it seems as if he SHOULD be putting up those points based on the iso’s and shots he has per game. PG could do similar numbers, but he plays with more ball dominant players. Although that may not be a bad thing for team play, it can take away from Paul George’s stats because he doesn’t have the ball in his hands as often. This is a similar situation in Milwaukee with Giannis but to lesser degree as he has shooters around him, encouraging him to pass when he goes to the paint to help overall team success. Harden also leads in passing because of his playmaking role on the team and the ability to draw doubles and make the perfect pass, same goes for Giannis, who isn’t far behind in the assists category. Giannis is the best rebounder of the three, but PG doesn’t rank far behind, as he averages eight a game while having teammates such as RW who averages 10+. Paul George’s ability on the defensive end, as well as his defensive IQ, help to rank him very high within the MVP Race, and I believe defense will be important when choosing the league’s most valuable player. If the Thunder finish with a Top 3 seed in the West, I believe that the high placement could give him the edge in the race; however, my next choice would be Giannis because of his ability to propel the average Bucks to the best record in the NBA, something many didn’t expect before the season. Paul George still has a realistic chance to win MVP, DPOY and MIP. Achieving MVP and DPOY in the same season would be the first time the same player has done that since Hakeem Olajuwon, putting him in some elite company.