Indiana Pacers forward Paul George is eyeing a return in mid-March. As you remember George broke his right leg during the team USA scrimmage on August 1st in Las Vegas. George was expected to miss the entire season.
Without George and Lance Stephenson who signed with the Hornets in the off-season, the Pacers have struggled as most expected. They are 21-33 which is good enough for 12th in the East. The surprising thing is they are only one win back in the win column and three games back in the lost column for the 7th seed. The Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat are tied for 7th with a 22-30 record.
After running some NBA lottery simulations the Pacers currently get the 10th pick in the draft. Both sites www.draftexpress.com and www.nbadraft.net have the Pacers selecting the freshman center from Texas Myles Turner. Roy Hibbert has a player option worth $15 million next season and he will most likely accept that.
If the Pacers bring back Paul George and he looks good they could make a run to the playoffs. He will most likely be on a minute’s restriction. The Pacers have a tough stretch of games at the end of March. It would be good to see Paul George back on the court but maybe the best move for the team going forward is losing games and getting a lottery pick.
If they could draft another center to eventually replace Roy Hibbert they could try to move Hibbert and his expiring contract next season. If they continue to lose games their draft position could get better and they might be able to draft Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein. Cauley-Stein is a really good athletic center who plays defense. He’s not as athletic as a DeAndre Jordan but he moves better than Roy Hibbert.
Paul George has stated, “There’s no exact timetable for my return…I have targeted March 1 as the date that I would go 100 percent in practice, and if everything felt good, I’d give myself another two weeks to get in shape to play in a game.”
That means George could make his return on March 16th which is a home game against the Raptors. If George plays that game he will end the month playing against seven playoff teams.
The Pacers have fought hard this season without George. They have four of five including beating the Cavaliers and ending their long winning streak. Before this recent streak they did have a seven game losing streak.
The future is more important than trying to make the playoffs this season. George should play in some games but the Pacers should not push him too hard to make the playoffs. The Pacers play 11 games before March16, depending on their record the Pacers might have to hold back on bringing George back even in the Eastern Conference.
Focus on the future, get a good draft pick and move on from there. Paul George will be back soon and he will be better than ever. No need to rush him back for a playoff push this season.