Paul George hit a rough patch following the NBA All-Star break, a spot made no better by two injured shoulders both in need of postseason surgery to repair torn tendons.
Despite that rough patch, he never quit defending, still wound up leading the NBA in steals per game (2.21) and, on Wednesday, was named to the 2018-19 NBA All-Defensive First Team.
It marks the second time George has been an All-Defensive first teamer — he was awarded the honor following the 2013-14 NBA season as an Indiana Pacer — and the fourth time he’s been awarded All-Defensive honors on the first or second team.
In addition to leading the league in steals, George led the NBA in deflections per game (3.8) and loose balls recovered (2.1).
Joining George on the first-team are Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe, Utah’s Rudy Gobert and Boston’s Marcus Smart.
The second team consists of Golden State’s Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, New Orleans’ Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard.
Led by George defensively, Oklahoma City finished fourth in the NBA with a 106.4 defensive rating, meaning the Thunder allowed that many points, on average, per 100 opponent possessions.
Previous Thunder personnel named to the All-Defensive team have included Serge Ibaka (2011-14), Andre Roberson (2016-17) and Thabo Sefolosha (2009-10).