Pacers Want To Play Paul George At Power Forward

INDIANAPOLIS -- At the beginning of the Indiana Pacers' off-season, the team was left with a lot of questions that needed to be answered. What route will the team go in the 2015 NBA draft? Will Roy Hibbert decide to accept his player option? Surely David West will accept his player option, right? How will the team spend their salary cap space? Will the team make any trades to improve the roster? How will the team get the pieces to change to their desired 'up-tempo' style? All of these questions have been answered, including perhaps the most important question of the off-season; Will Paul George play the power forward position?

It was a universal decision by the Pacers organization to play smaller, faster, and score more points in the 2015-16 season. Larry Bird and Frank Vogel understand that the league requires an athletic option at the power forward position, something that the Pacers have been without in the past few seasons. With David West departing in free agency to the San Antonio Spurs, both Vogel and Bird decided now is the best time to move Paul George to power forward. There would be a glaring hole at the starting power forward position if Paul George wasn't moved to the position, which would make it difficult to fill out the rest of the team's roster. All parties involved agreed that it was best for Paul George to play power forward.

Indiana has decided that playing smaller and faster doesn't have to mean a complete change in identity. Indiana wants to go small at the power forward position, not both the power forward and center positions. The Pacers still want to use a traditional center to protect the rim, defend the low post, and produce offense in the post. Playing small at the power forward position would result in more floor spacing, an additional player to push the tempo, another offensively talented player on the court, and more versatility on both sides of the ball. The benefits are limitless for the Pacers when playing a 'proto-typical small ball power forward' like Paul George.

There may be a lot of benefits to playing Paul George at power forward, but some have concerns about it as well. The largest concern appears to be George defending a bigger and more traditional power forward in the low post. Many are concerned that Paul George would become physically exhausted over an 82-game season and frequently getting into foul trouble. These are the same concerns that the Pacers received about playing Jermaine O'Neil at the center position. However, the Pacers are not worried about this happening to George. Indiana believes that George has a great amount of upper and lower body strength to easily make this transition.

Paul George has added a lot of muscle and strength since his broken leg. He certainly has the strength, weight, height, skill, and athleticism to thrive at the power forward position on both sides of the floor. If George does encounter a difficult assignment in the low post, the Pacers' defense can always send help. Remember, this team has transitioned to a faster lineup, meaning that their defensive rotations will be faster as well. But it doesn't appear that George will encounter many power forwards that will actually challenge him in the post, especially in the Eastern Conference. If this is a concern of the team, George will just have to work with the Pacers' coaching staff on ensuring that his defensive low post fundamentals are sound enough for him to stay out of foul trouble. There really aren't any concerns past these, as the rest would be pure offensive and defensive advantage for both George individually, and the Pacers as a team.

Paul George wouldn't be playing all of his minutes at the power forward position, but it sounds like he will for a majority of the time. Indiana still has solid pieces off the bench to place at power forward, like Lavoy Allen and Shayne Whittington, which would allow for Paul George to slide over to small forward in certain lineups. There is certainly room for versatility in lineup options, so Paul George wouldn't have to be only playing the power forward position. It will quickly become evident to George that offensively, the power forward position will be much easier for him. He will just have to put in some work this off-season to make sure his defensive post skills are ready for the season. Other than that, he is ready both offensively and defensively to help the Pacers a lot at the power forward position.

Earlier this week (before Larry Bird commented), Paul George discussed Larry Bird's desire for him playing the power forward position (via Vigilant Sports):

“I’m a ball player,” George said. “You put me anywhere on the court, I’m going to make the most of it. It’s not going to be logging 30 minutes at the power forward. Whatever needs to be done. If I got to play a couple minutes at the power forward I’m fine with it.”

“Yeah, he’s running with it,” George said. “We’ll see. If I got a great matchup and things are going well, I’m sure we’ll stay in that.”

Paul George made it sound like that he's expecting to occasionally play the power forward position, but 'expecting' is the key word here. The word 'expecting' is vastly different from 'wanting'. George did not mention not 'wanting' to play the power forward position for a large amount of minutes, as he said he's not 'expecting' to. George said that he is willing to do whatever he is asked to do, even if that means starting at power forward.

Later in the week, Larry Bird discussed with the media, partially about Paul George playing power forward (via Vigilant Sports):

“He don’t make the decisions around here," said Bird. "I did it, I loved it after I did it, we’ll see how he feels about it. I just think offensively it’s going to be one of the greatest feelings he’s ever going to have. He’s going to find out it’s much easier [than small forward], but obviously he’s going to have to guard bigger and stronger players. I’m not going to get into a battle with Paul George about where he wants to play. He’s a basketball player. He can play anywhere you put him out there, believe me.”

“I told him how I think he’ll embrace the opportunity,” Bird added. “I know what it did to my career. I always like to get down there and bang with the guys instead of running around and chasing everybody all of the time. Coming off this injury that he’s coming off of, I think it’d be a good year to try it because he can guard some threes but he won’t have to do it all the time. It gives him a year to get stronger and healthier. I think it’ll be a big plus for him and our team.”

Note: Check back with VAVEL-USA to see how Paul George playing power forward would create advantages for the Indiana Pacers.