A total of nine teams passed up on current Indiana Pacers forward and MVP candidate Paul George in the 2010 NBA draft.
To recap, those teams were the Washington Wizards, Philadelphia 76ers, the then-New Jersey Nets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors, Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz.
With the exception of the Warriors and Clippers, these teams are all below .500 and with a combined win-loss record of 63-111 (.362) as of Dec. 18, per NBA.com.
Had any of these squads plucked George from the draft, they would have made some headway at the very least.
That's just how good the guy is.
A look back at the 2010 NBA draft and its interesting storylines revolving around George should make the Indiana Pacers and their fans feel very fortunate in landing this would-be superstar and franchise player.
The Rundown on Paul George Before the 2010 NBA Draft
Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports wrote an article just two days before the 2010 NBA draft. It cites an emphatic statement from an anonymous Eastern Conference scout who said,"In five years, Paul George will be the best player to come out of this draft. Trust me."
Spears also spoke with George, who said back then his goal was to become an NBA legend one day:
I feel like I have all the intangibles, all the tools to be one of the best players not only in this draft, but to play in this game.
It's something I'm really taking to heart. My dream is to not only get drafted—that's a goal of mine—but my dream is to someday be a legend at this game. I want to work to be that.
Here are some scouting reports on George, who was a 6'9", 214-pound sophomore of the Fresno State Bulldogs:
"His athleticism and ability to run the floor make him dynamic in transition...Rebounds well for a small forward."—NBADraft.net.
"Much of George's potential resides in the fact that he has excellent leaping ability and a frame that is reminiscent of a young Tracy McGrady."—DraftExpress.com
"Overall, he looks like a very strong defender for the 3."—EightPointsNineSeconds.com
"The first thing that pops off the page when looking at George's numbers is his high turnover percentage."—DraftExpress.com
"George's biggest weakness is his inability to create for himself, and his poor shooting percentage when pulling up off the dribble."—NBADraft.net
As one can very well see, most of what was included in this section proved to be prophetic.
A Look Back at How the First 9 Teams Fared in the 2010 NBA Draft
Check out some of the post-2010 NBA draft comments of Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix for the first nine picks:
Washington Wizards, John Wall—"The Wizards scored perhaps the draft's only franchise player when they nabbed John Wall with the No. 1 pick."
Philadelphia 76ers, Evan Turner—"Turner was a no-brainer: He's polished, mature and a natural two-guard."
New Jersey Nets, Derrick Favors—"No one knows what Favors is going to be; he has a great body and tremendous defensive instincts, but he lacks polish and it's hard to project what kind of post player he's going to become."
Minnesota Timberwolves, Wesley Johnson—"Johnson has star written all over him: He's efficient, a promising defender."
Sacramento Kings, DeMarcus Cousins—"Earned a reputation as a sulker with a questionable attitude at Kentucky."
Golden State Warriors, Ekpe Udoh—"..is a 6-foot-10, 240-pound pseudo-center who isn't especially tough and isn't especially strong."
Detroit Pistons, Greg Monroe—"In time, Monroe could develop into a front-of-the-line starting center."
Los Angeles Clippers, Al-Farouq Aminu—"Something about his game -- versatile, good rebounder, finishes well at the rim -- screams Luol Deng, a player the Clips would be perfectly content with."
Utah Jazz, Gordon Hayward—"He's a 6-foot-9, 207-pound toothpick who parlayed a strong sophomore season and a fantastic NCAA tournament into a lottery selection."
This brings us now to George.
The previous season's 2009-10 Indy squad, which finished just 32-50, was a young and raw team replete with misfits such as Brandon Rush, Troy Murphy and Josh McRoberts.
In a season which was small forward Danny Granger's first as the Pacers' franchise player, Indiana desperately needed help at point guard and power forward.
According to Mannix, the Pacers initially "dangled Granger and the No. 10 pick to Jersey" for Devin Harris and Favors. He goes on to say the Nets "didn't bite" and Indiana wound up with George in spite of a potential logjam at small forward with Granger.
The Nets saying "no" turned out to be the Pacers' biggest blessing in years.
Larry Bird on Drafting Paul George in the 2010 Draft
Mark Montieth of Pacers.com interviewed Indiana Pacers team president Larry Bird on Dec. 14 to talk about several topics, one of which was the drafting of George in 2010.
Bird told Montieth Indy's pick boiled down to North Carolina's Ed Davis and George, who scared Bird at first:
The day I walked to the draft room (in 2010), it was between Ed Davis and Paul George. My owner kept asking me who I was taking, and I was still debating. But when it came down to it, you had to take the young, talented guy with a lot of length.
If you watched Paul George in college it was scary, because he shot a lot of air balls, he took a lot of bad shots, he turned the ball over at a high rate. But he's long, he's athletic, he shot 90 percent from the foul line and he can guard.
In the interview with Montieth, Bird also emphasized George is still maturing as a player and that the team's gamble on him ultimately paid off:
Yeah, but basketball-wise, he hadn't matured yet as a player. He still hasn't. But he got better. He's a worker. We did our background checks. He loved to play. He would work. He wants to be good.
The Key Takeaways on Why Several Teams Passed Up On Paul George
Based on the information presented, George had a ton of potential prior to the 2010 NBA draft—he can run the floor, defend and rebound. He was already a versatile player.
However, his main weaknesses, poor shot selection and turnovers, were the ones that turned off opposing scouts and even Pacers president Larry Bird, to an extent.
A deeper look into Mannix's analysis of the nine players chosen before George reveals some common denominators. In Mannix's opinion, some of them—including Wall, Turner and Johnson—were already polished, efficient and a star.
Thus, it was a no-brainer for the teams who were on the board
On the other hand, players such as Favors, Cousins and Udoh presented some question marks, but their respective teams took a chance with them, anyway.
So did the Indiana Pacers with George.
In spite of his versatility, George was unquestionably raw. It took him three seasons to show real flashes of his full potential. During his first two NBA seasons, he was timid and reluctant.
One key takeaway here is that the Pacers (according to Bird's interview with Montieth) knew George's length, upside and ultimately his work ethic will eventually one day prove they made the right choice.
With a little help from the Nets, per Mannix.
In the end, perhaps the biggest takeaway of them all in getting passed up has fired up George, who is now an MVP candidate.
He said so himself when he spoke with The Indianapolis Star's Candace Buckner on Nov. 30, a day before the Pacers took on the Los Angeles Clippers:
I always want to outdo the person who was drafted higher than me. Whether it's a best friend or close friend, whoever it is. I take it as a challenge.
I'm happy where I'm at being here but (the Clippers) were one of the teams that did overlook me. So I always have that in the back of my mind when I play them.
From turnover machine to franchise player, Pacers forward Paul George has certainly come a long way.
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