Paul George’s first year in Oklahoma City is finally hitting its stride. After four months of figuring out how to play alongside Russell Westbrook, their chemistry has become real and George is taking every advantage of the situation. We’re halfway through the season and George leads the league in both steals and deflections.
His defense was on display more than ever in a wire-to-wire Thunder win against the Warriors Tuesday night. George handled the Kevin Durant defensive assignment, while also chasing Klay Thompson around when Durant was on the bench. If he found himself matched up with anyone else on the Warriors? No problem, he shut them down too. George’s array of defensive moves showed that positions don’t matter as much on the basketball court when a player can literally guard anyone.
George finished the night with 38 points, six steals, five rebounds, and three assists. Let’s take a look at George’s best audition for Defensive Player of the Year yet:
Swiping the ball away from Durant
Durant’s long arms can only be outdone by George’s long arms. He strips the ball with his right hand but is long enough and quick enough to steal the ball with his left.
Prior to this, George’s first defensive possession of the game also was a deflection on Durant that nearly resulted in a steal. George uses his inside hand here like every textbook defensive tape you’ve ever seen.
Keeping Steph Curry in check
Here George gets switched onto Curry, fights through the ball screen, and thanks to Steven Adams, recovers in time to also stop Curry’s famous step back three-pointer. Where he earns the extra points is Curry immediately cuts to the basket after passing to ZaZa Pachulia and George cuts that off as well.
George didn’t get many opportunities to guard Curry one-on-one throughout the game, but this play shows he’s certainly able to do it and do it well.
Denying Thompson the ball on the perimeter
Thompson doesn’t do much off the dribble, so George’s brilliance comes in denying him even getting the ball. This not only stopped Thompson from a catch and shoot three-pointer, it forced Draymond Green into a fairly bad shot.
One minute later, when Thompson was finally able to get enough space to get the ball, he had a terrible time getting a good look at the basket with George draped all over him.
Contesting Kevin Looney at the rim? Sure, why not
George isn’t only a perimeter defender, as seen here. He takes the contact, going straight up with Looney. Special shoutout to Roy Hibbert, who George steals this move from.
He even stopped David West in the post
Another example of George being able to handle any position or assignment he’s given. I don’t care how old West is, it’s still hard to stop him.
Dont forget George also had six steals
Including this one where he looked like a cornerback picking off a pass.
Defensive Player of the Year is something George has had his sights on for many years. While always being regarded as a top two-way player in the league, winning DPOY would be special. His new role in OKC playing alongside other great defenders in Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams may finally get George pushed to the top of the conversation in 2018.