OKC Thunder player preview: Healthier Paul George pushes OKC into contention

OKC Thunder Paul George (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
OKC Thunder Paul George (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
Paul George, OKC Thunder (Photo by Alex Nahorniak-Svenski/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Paul George returns to the OKC Thunder locked in for the foreseeable future healthy and ready to compete for a top spot in the west.

After a surprisingly quick and easy offseason decision, Paul George is back in OKC. But in order for the OKC Thunder to reach their true potential, they will need a fully engaged George from start to finish.

This may seem like a hot take to some, but Paul George had a disappointing first season in OKC. The great news for him is that nobody talked about it because it was a lot easier to trash Carmelo and Russell Westbrook.

But the fact of the matter is George, by his own standards, struggled last season. We have learned recently he was banged up all of last season with various injuries. He had 18-20 ounces of blood drained from his shooting elbow, which explains why all his major shooting percentages decreased from the previous season. He also had a knee scope shorty after the OKC Thunder season ended. It became incredibly obvious George was not himself for most of, if not all of last season.

The Decision:

Maybe this is why George opted for a three-year deal instead of a “one-plus-one” short term contract stars like LeBron James and Kevin Durant have signed over the past few years. Regardless, George is back for at least three more years.

That may be something to celebrate, especially after the last major free agency decision a Thunder player made. Yet, the fact of the matter remains if the Thunder are going to be legitimate contenders, they need the Indiana Paul George that carried the Pacers to the playoffs his final two years, not last year’s Paul George who went 2-16 in an elimination game against Utah. If #PlayoffP is still in there, the Thunder need to do whatever they can to bring him out.

We know George’s role. He is going to be the 1B to Russell Westbrook’s 1A. He’s going to play around 35 minutes a night, hopefully less if the Thunder are blowing teams out. The talent is there, it’s just going to be about making the most of his opportunities, which should not be an issue.

2017-18 stats

Paul George’s first season for the OKC Thunder resulted in a per game average of:

  • 36.6 minutes
  • 21.9 points
  • 5.7 rebounds
  • 3.3 assists
  • .430/.401/.822 shooting splits.
  • 18.7 PER