Is Paul George's production with the Thunder his new normal?

Paul George's shooting success and steals production have changed with the Thunder. Is this his new normal? Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we pose a question to a panel of ESPN fantasy basketball experts to gauge their thoughts on a hot topic.

Today's contributors are ESPN Fantasy's Jim McCormick and Kyle Soppe, plus ESPN NBA analyst Kevin Pelton.

Paul George is averaging a career-worst 41.1 FG% and a career-best 2.5 steals per game. Is this the new norm for PG with the Oklahoma City Thunder?

Kevin Pelton: No, I don't think so. George is currently making 41.9 percent of his 2-point attempts; he's never previously shot worse than 44.7 percent on them, and he made 50.1 percent last season. If anything, playing with Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook should mean George taking fewer difficult, contested 2-point attempts.

Indeed, according to Second Spectrum data, that appears to be the case. The quantified shot quality (qSQ) of George's 2-point attempts has been 46.2 percent -- that's the amount we'd expect an average shooter to make, given where those attempts have come and the location of nearby defenders. By contrast, George's qSQ in 2016-17 was 43.2 percent, which he far exceeded. So I'd expect George's field-goal percentage to regress to the mean going forward.

Jim McCormick: George is converting just 25.8 percent of his attempts from 3-10 feet after converting 48.9 percent of such shots last season and sporting a career clip of 37.6 from this range. The same applies to shots from 10-16 feet; he's hitting 29.4 percent this season compared to a career clip of 38.1 percent.

This suggests George is likely due for a positive correction from this range. George has shot above 42.4 percent from the field for a full season just once over the past six seasons, so this current rate isn't so alarming in that context.

I'm most interested in the surge in steals, as it's not surprising to see George sacrifice offensive opportunities in Oklahoma City; he had a 29.2 percent usage rate over the past four seasons compared to 25.4 this year with the Thunder. We often hear about how demanding usage rates can result in a dip in defensive production, so maybe the inverse can be true, and George has more bandwidth for defensive effort.

Maybe he's due for some regression in his rate of steals, but I do think there is something to the relationship between offensive workload and defensive potential.

Meanwhile, George is 15th on the Player Rater after finishing last season 14th, so I'm content if this production pattern is the new norm for George.

Kyle Soppe: No, sir, we can expect more. I'd expect the steals to regress to his career norm (1.7), but that should be more than offset by his near certain improvement in the FG% department.

Yes, the new team is to blame for a higher percentage of PG's shots coming from distance, and that probably isn't going anywhere, but a change in jersey color doesn't change a player's skill set.

Entering this season, George had shot better than 40 percent on midrange attempts for his career, but he sits at a feeble 32.6 percent 23 games into his Thunder tenure. Once that corrects, you're looking at career norm numbers in PPG and FG%, a fine return on your draft-day investment.