Analysis: Should Pacers keep Paul George at power forward?

Pacers president Larry Bird expects George to like playing the position eventually, but will the two-time All-Star accept it?

Ten days later, the topic isn’t broached after Paul George scored 13 points in the first quarter and took the rest of Tuesday night off.

Not that the question has disappeared for the Indiana Pacers during NBA preseason. But this night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, George slid over to play small forward with C.J. Miles sidelined by illness.

That’s not the plan, as most are aware. Pacers president Larry Bird and head coach Frank Vogel intend to use their two-time All-Star at power forward.

PG doesn’t like the idea. He expressed his frustration 10 days ago after the preseason opener, the Pacers’ only loss in four exhibitions.

Bird has said his star doesn’t have to like the idea. It’s what is best for the team.

Bosses typically win these disputes, so Bird is probably going to see this through. As Bird has reminded, he played the “four,” and he’s convinced George will eventually like it, too. And more importantly, the Pacers will be better off as an up-tempo team if their best player accepts this change.

George is 6-9 and 220, which means giving away some muscle and height to the NBA’s bigger guys. On opening night, he was trying to defend Anthony Davis, a mismatch for most defenders, so the frustration was to be expected.

But there’s a flip side to that coin. George has thrived in the new offense, where guards Monta Ellis and George Hill and others spread the floor and can take turns attacking and breaking down defenses.

There are more drives to the basket, not exactly the Pacers’ strong suit last year.

There are more kick-out passes for wide-open 3-point looks. This team will be looking to hit more shots from beyond the arc.

That’s today’s NBA. Play fast and spread it out and score. Some might not care for small ball, but the Golden State Warriors won an NBA title that way last season.

At the end of the first quarter of Tuesday against the Detroit Pistons at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, George had scored about half of his team’s points in a 27-24 Pacers lead. The fact that he moved over to the three shouldn’t be lost on what is going on.

Bird and Vogel have said their star player will move around. He won’t just play the four. So maybe too much is made too soon of this expressed concern.

This much is clear. George looks like he’s regained his form from before he broke his right leg 13 months ago. He was averaging a team-best 21 points entering Tuesday.

Hill and Ellis look like they’re a good fit in this new style, too. Ellis has looked to pass more than shoot so far, but that will change when the games count. Hill took advantage of Ellis unselfishly setting up his backcourt mate by scoring 14 points in about 20 minutes in a 101-97 win over the Pistons.

Miles is a streaky shooter, so he’ll sit when slumping, perhaps for Chase Budinger or Solomon Hill or eventually rookie Myles Turner. In that situation, expect George to shift to the three.

If that happens enough this season, perhaps he’ll eventually see the merits to Bird’s plan on the nights when he lines up at power forward. If not, and George’s offense is eventually affected by playing the four too often, then the Pacers have a decision to make about forcing him to stay there.

At least for now, two weeks away from the regular-season opener, it appears George can flourish, regardless of where he lines up at the start of games. But stay tuned.

Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.


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