Paul George will win the NBA MVP. As of right now, there is no doubt in my mind, all hometown Pacers bias aside. There isn’t a player that has a more complete game than him right now in the league. If Wednesday night at MSG was any indication, Paul George has quickly become the clutch, give-me-the-damn-ball superstar that most NBA teams that win a championship have. But it isn’t just his ability to score or even his lockdown defense that’s made him great this year, it’s been his leadership. George laid his foundation as a defensive player and would consistently be matched up on the opposing team’s best player night in and night out. He then coupled that defensive ability with a bit of scoring ability going into last year. But last year at this point, the Pacers were struggling to find their identity in the wake of their leader Danny Granger being sidelined with a long-term knee injury.
“Last year I would’ve deferred, I would’ve looked to have someone else take this role,” George said of how the game’s final minutes played out, with every single play being draw up for him. “This year, this time around, I’m going to be more aggressive. I’m more confident with myself. I had to learn myself.”
George didn’t quite understand the void he needed to fill in Granger’s absence at that time. Fast-forward a year later and it is now without a doubt his team. He now has complete control of this team on both ends of the floor. George entered the fourth quarter shooting just 5-15 from the floor but scored 15 of the Pacers final 19 points. The Kobe Bryant’s and Lebron James’s of this game carry their team when it’s needed most even if they haven’t performed well all night. After sinking three cold-blooded free throws that brought up eerily similar memories of last years game one Eastern Conference Finals bout with Miami, George and the Pacers clamped down in overtime to seal a win that showed the grit of a championship-caliber team.
And with that, the Pacers may finally have the missing piece to a championship puzzle. An MVP superstar named Paul George.