Clippers: Will we see better version of Paul George with Kawhi Leonard out?

Paul George (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
Paul George (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images) /

If the LA Clippers are going to make some noise in the Western Conference this season, it’s going to be on the back of Paul George. Now in his third season with the team and 12th overall, the seven-time All-Star has had his ups and downs on and off the court.

With the new season comes a bigger spotlight on George, complete with the constant criticisms he’s grown used to hearing from outsiders. While he’s admitted to caring too much about outside noise regarding his play in the past, he says that distraction will now be a thing of the past.

"“I don’t give a s—. That’s just how I attack the court now,” said George heading into the season. “I don’t need validation. I’m my own worst critic.”"

A fully locked-in Paul George is a dangerous Paul George.

Paul George showed it when Kawhi Leonard went down in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals last season. Averaging a staggering 32.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 6.0 assists in the last two games to close out Utah, he only continued his dominance in the Western Conference Finals.

While the Phoenix Suns eventually overmatched the Clippers in the series, those six games showed exactly what George is capable of as the lead option. Putting up 28.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game, he had an entire series full of vintage performances that can only help his confidence going forward.

As often the case, oddsmakers aren’t putting much faith into George as a legitimate MVP candidate, only ranking him with the 14th-best odds to win the award this season. Given Leonard is expected to miss at least four months and probably longer, that’s a bit of an insult considering how Paul played without him.

Still, being his own critic, George can take that negative energy that used to bother him and turn that into motivation to lead the Clippers. Even though the franchise player will be missing significant time, there’s enough talent around George to keep the team afloat until he makes his return.

Next. Kawhi Leonard already taking stride in ACL recovery. dark

As last year’s postseason proved, a healthy duo of Leonard and George are capable of winning the West and more. If he’s able to harness that postseason magic for the 2021-22 season, expect the Clippers to be right in the mix again come May.