What a terribly cruel mistress sport can be? One day, Paul George is plying his trade with the best of the best, readying himself to represent his country with pride and honour. Nek minute (if you are unsure what that means, check the video below), he’s on a hospital bed awaiting surgery for a compound fracture to both his right tibia and fibula.
And that is the only video I’ll be posting. If you want to see George’s gruesome injury, I’m sure there are countless places to watch it, but there is no need to see someone’s lower limb bent out at right angles to their body like that unless you have to. This is the injury that sent shock waves around the NBA community. Riding high on unprecedented positive energy, the league as heading into its most anticipated season in years, but this injury to George has just left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. Not only does it rob us of one of the game’s great, young talents, but it puts into jeopardy the likelihood of seeing star players represent their countries at future tournaments, all fearful that another injury like this could be just around the corner.
We can all but write this season off for George, but the worrying thing is, what happens in the future? As much as a break is better than a ligament tears in some circumstances, gruesome leg injuries like this take a long time to heal. Think of Kevin Ware at Louisville last year, Tyrone Prothro, the Alabama football player, plus Nathan Brown and Dale Morris of the Australian Football League. These guys either had the injury end their career, hamper their ability or it took them in excess of 18 months to return. I’m not saying that will happen with George, but a broken leg can be worse than an ACL tear in quite a number of cases and almost certainly takes longer to recover from.
So, we are assuming George is out for the entirety of the 2014-15 season, and based on reports from Candace Buckner of the Indy Star, that seems likely. His surgery was successful and no new damage was found, but to have him back playing at a high level this season should not be high on anyone’s agenda.
George played 36 minutes a night at small forward last season and the recently departed Lance Stephenson played 35 at the two guard, leaving 71 minutes to be filled on the wings in Indiana. Perhaps luckily, the Pacers brought in three wing players this offseason — C.J. Miles, Rodney Stuckey and rookie Damjan Rudez. Add to that, last year’s first round pick Solomon Hill and free agent acquisition Chris Copeland and there are certainly options to fill the gaping void.
At one stage, there was debate over who would play the starting shooting guard role. Now, it seems obvious. Stuckey should start next to George Hill and Miles should play the three. Hill will definitely be given a chance to earn some decent backup minutes, but given how he struggled last season, I’d say Chris Copeland will play more minutes, especially initially. Miles will also play the backup two when Stuckey sits, allowing Copeland and Hill minutes at the three.
In light of the injury, here are my projections, based on how I see the minutes playing out and the players per-100 possessions stats from Basketball-Reference.com, for Stuckey, Miles, Solomon Hill, and Chris Copeland.
From my projections, Miles is the most valuable, because of his great production in three-pointers, free throw percentage and steals, whereas Stuckey, the more seasoned veteran, is a poor fantasy player by comparison. He can’t hit threes, offers little defense and basically just scores. An interesting guy to watch is Copeland, who has converted over 40 percent of his three-point attempts in his two year career.
As for rankings, I’d have Miles in the top 80, Stuckey top 130, Copeland top 180, and Hill top 250.
If you own George in dynasty leagues, I wouldn’t make any panic moves yet, but to think he’ll come back the same as before is a little hopeful. If I got an offer that would compare to something I would’ve received pre injury, maybe even a top 25 player, I’d take it.
All in all, it was a dark day for the NBA and basketball fans in general. We all want the best players on the court and with Derrick Rose and Kobe Bryant set to return, the NBA season was shaping up to be epic. Alas, Paul George won’t be a part of it.