Paul George taking the leap to superstardom

Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

George is putting up MVP-type numbers in leading the Pacers to a 4-0 start.

Indiana Pacers forward Paul George had a sort of "Welcome to Stardom" moment when he received a dap from LeBron James following a crazy sequence in Game 2 of last year's Eastern Conference Finals.

George would proceed to go toe-to-toe with James for the rest of that series, falling just short in a Game 7. The consensus from many was that George had arrived as a superstar, and he was certainly paid like one this offseason, inking a five-year maximum contract extension and becoming the Pacers' "Designated Player" in the process.

But despite all this, the numbers said George wasn't a superstar just yet. The 23-year-old certainly stuffed the stat sheet, but his 41.9 percent shooting left quite a bit to be desired. Even during his great postseason run, that number was at just 43.0 percent, although he did average 19.4 points on 47.5 percent shooting overall against Miami.

With that new contract extension in hand, George entered this season ready to show that he in fact is a superstar. And while it has only been four games, the early results say that he has now officially arrived.

In leading the Pacers to a 4-0 start, George is averaging 27.0 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists. That inefficient shooting? It might just be a thing of the past, as George is shooting 52.9 percent overall and 45.2 percent from long range. And he currently ranks third in the NBA with a PER of 30.53.

Turnovers are still an issue for George (3.5 a game), and who knows how long he can keep up this torrid shooting pace. One has to think he'll slow a little bit, but as long as he doesn't fall off too much, the Pacers will be in great shape.

Indiana is the last unbeaten team in the league, and they've done it without Danny Granger and with starting point guard George Hill missing two games. In the two games Hill played, the Pacers' starting lineup was absolutely dominant, posting a net rating of 33.3 in 29 minutes according to's stats page.

With George blossoming into a superstar, Roy Hibbert anchoring a stingy defense and the depth still in line to possibly improve whenever Granger returns from a calf injury, the Pacers are looking like a juggernaut. Indiana will face off against one of their main challengers Wednesday night when the Chicago Bulls come to town, and the wing duo of Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler should provide a nice test for George.

If George proves he can have success against that stout defensive duo, that's not good for a Bulls team trying to regain their Central Division crown. A healthy and non-rusty Derrick Rose has been the trump card the Bulls have had over the Pacers prior to last season, but if George is a superstar in his own right, that advantage may be kaput.

George is legitimately playing like an MVP candidate right now, which has him on track to receive that bump in salary thanks to the "Derrick Rose Rule." That may hurt the small-market Pacers a bit in terms of financial flexibility over the next few years, but it's hard to say it wouldn't be worth it.

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