Take away LeBron and KD and Carmelo Anthony has been the best player at his position. For the last few years, his grip on that spot was strong. Not anymore.
Thanks to his status as the best player on the East’s best team, as well as remarkable improvements, Indiana’s Paul George is now an All-Star starter, an MVP candidate and perhaps one of the game’s best players.
George, as possibly the best player in the NBA under 25, doesn’t score as easily as ‘Melo and doesn’t hit the glass as hard. But he’s a versatile Swiss army knife. With Anthony having one of the best seasons of his career wasted in New York, there’s a possibility these two meet up in the first round of the playoffs. That’s a long way off so, for now, we’re arguing who’s better: Paul George or Carmelo Anthony? We argue. You decide.
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Before the season started I’m sure most would’ve picked Carmelo Anthony. During the entirety of the 2013 fall, most would’ve taken Paul George. So, here we are heading into February with a bit of a dilemma. In choosing which of the stellar small forwards you’d choose I pose one question: who gives you more? The answer has to be Paul George.
While Anthony is averaging about four more points a game, he’s been less consistent and less efficient from the floor. Anthony is beyond talented at the offensive end but he has a tendency to shoot his team out of games. Anthony has taken 20 or more shots this season 30 times. In those 30 games, the Knicks have only arrived victorious 12 times. George has only taken 20 or more shots on 11 occasions. The Pacers are 9-2 over that span.
While George does have the better team, let’s not discount team success–especially in a terrible, eye-gouging awful Eastern Conference. Let’s not forget the New York Knicks won 54 games last year and the Indiana Pacers won 49 games. Now the Eastern Conference has gotten worse and when one would expect the Knicks to take a step forward, they’ve fallen into an abyss. George has seen another massive leap in his game. His offense is right there with Anthony. George is only averaging .01 points per possession less than Anthony. It’s falsely assumed Anthony is a better shot creator, because while he is ranked 30th in isolation scoring, George is the seventh overall ranked isolation scorer. Synergy also has George as the more productive spot-up and off-screen scorer.
Now while you might still be on the fence, what about defense? Paul George leads the entire league in defensive win shares. The league! Not his Defensive Player of the Year leading candidate teammate, not DeAndre Jordan, not LeBron James but Paul George. Synergy ranks George 44th overall in defensive points per possession; they rank Anthony 169. In games against the Pacers, LeBron James has shot 46 percent, a far cry from the 58 percent he’s averaging this season. Against the Knicks, he’s averaging over 70 percent shooting. George may be the most impacting two-way player in the league. His offense is just short of elite, while his defense reigns supreme. In a league where the two best players both play the small forward position wouldn’t you rather have the excellent defender over the marginally better scorer?
Finally let’s talk about the basic attributes. Paul George has one of the best physical skill-sets in the game. Other than Durant, who can boast his frame? He’s 6-9 of pure athleticism. His wing span stretches seven incredible feet. He’s also six years younger than Anthony. This is a guy who hasn’t stopped improving, he’s gotten better every single year. Anthony has scarily similar numbers to his previous season. We’ve seen Anthony’s best and it wasn’t enough in Denver or New York.
If for some reason you are still unsure, do yourself a favor and take the younger player still reaching for the ceiling.