From Playoff P to Pandemic P: Paul George is and Has Been Overrated
“Y’all ain’t met Playoff P yet huh?”
Those seven words right there, have seemed to put a curse on Paul George. It’s one thing if someone else puts a curse on you, but those words came out of his mouth. Which seems like the overall theme for George since he began playing in the Western Conference. He brings it all on himself.
Since the birth of Playoff P, Paul George’s name has become a punchline to NBA Twitter and NBA fans. It wasn’t always like this though. Throwback to the early-2010s when George was a young two-way star leading the Indiana Pacers in multiple playoff series against the “Big 3” Miami Heat teams. All those early playoff runs ended with Ls and no championships but George was young and he was going against the world’s best (LeBron James). Safe to say he got the benefit of the doubt.
The young up and coming all-star that George was evolved into Paul George the all-star veteran. With the experience came new expectations and pressure. George’s career hit its most significant hiccup in 2014 when he broke his leg during a Team USA scrimmage. Rehab took him out for the whole 2014–2015 season, eight months to be exact. George bounced back from the injury without missing a step, and some even say he got better as a player after the gruesome leg injury.
From this point on things began to change slowly. George was becoming a household name and it spawned the change from jersey number 24 to13 giving him the nickname PG-13. The nickname was catchy, making it easier to market and sell the Nike athlete to the masses. The next change came in the city and jersey that George would be repping after he forced a trade from the Pacers to the Oklahoma City Thunder. There he teamed up with stars, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony forming an off-brand superteam. With the growing brand and added pressure to win now, he felt he was left with no other choice. This is where everything began to spiral downward.
The new big 3 of PG, Westbrook, and Melo was the worst attempt at creating a superteam ever. Don’t even question it just accept it. Despite the regular season struggles that team went to the playoffs only to lose to a rookie led Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs. It was during this series when George uttered those infamous words, “Y’all ain’t met Playoff P yet huh?”
Fast forward to today and we have yet to meet Playoff P. We went from Paul George to PG, to PG-13, to Playoff P, and this season he evolved into Pandemic P. This time the nickname didn’t come from him, it came from the fans, justifiably so. We are in the middle of a pandemic. Paul George was playing terribly during the pandemic; the name made itself.
I look back to my third piece on my blog, “Kawhi Shakes Up the NBA Without Saying a Word,” and laugh all the time. We all automatically assumed that the pairing of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard on the Los Angeles Clippers would lead to immediate success. So much so we prematurely matched them up against the Lakers in the Conference Finals. The only thing is they never got there. To add insult to injury they blew a 3–1 lead against the young Denver Nuggets. On top of the pain Clippers fans felt from the devastating fold job they witnessed, Playoff P was missing once again. It wasn’t just for this series against the Nuggets where he struggled, he was nonexistent throughout the whole postseason. What made everything worse was the constant excuses being made to soften the gravity of what just happened. This year’s excuse was that the Clippers team had no chemistry and it was their first year together. Last year, Damian Lillard’s shot to send him home in the first round was “a bad shot,” according to him.
This year George put up post-season averages of 20.2 points, 3.8 assists, and 6.1 rebounds on 39.8% and 33% shooting from the field and three respectively. Compare that to his postseason career averages of 20 points, 3.4 assists, and 6.4 rebounds on 43% and 38% from the field and three respectively. The stats he put up this year are not too far off from his career average. That brings me to my point, maybe this is who he’s always been.
Talent-wise, Paul George is gifted. Standing at 6'8, George is a great ball-handler for his size and a high-level shot-creator. He pairs that with his hounding defense and uber athleticism and you can see why everyone is surprised when he doesn’t put it all together on the biggest stage.
Paul George is not a superstar. Never was. We always see glimpses and flashes of superstar talent but it’s never consistent in big moments. At most Paul George is an all-star. Pandemic P is the name that he would deserve if he was a superstar, but he’s not. His bid for superstardom died when he shot a wide-open three from the corner in game seven against the Nuggets and hit the side of the backboard.
On the verge of blowing a 3–1 lead, in a game seven, a superstar shoots and hits the side of the backboard, wide open? Make sense?
His career regular-season career averages of 20 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.7 steals is very similar to his playoff career averages of 20 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.6 steals. With his efficiency barely dipping between the two. Usually, the superstars are the ones whose game picks up in the playoffs. That hasn’t been the case for PG, it’s all right there. No significant shift in play visually and statistically. He isn’t who we thought he was, and that’s fine.
Paul George, PG, PG-13, Playoff P, Pandemic P, call him what you want just don’t call him a superstar.