Among the more interesting young international prospects who declared for the 2015 draft, George De Paula's strengths and weaknesses were on full display in front of NBA decision-makers that spring as he participated in the Hoop Summit, NBA Draft Combine, and adidas Eurocamp. Unable to secure the assurances he was seeking, De Paula elected to withdraw his name from the Draft that year, and headed back to Brazil to try and improve on the underdeveloped aspects of his game. Subsequently having a fairly unremarkable 2015-2016 season last year playing limited minutes with Pinheiros, De Paula's situation changed significantly this season when he latched on with Paulistano, a team featuring much of Brazil's young talent.
Stepping into a far bigger role, the 21-year-old point guard has averaged 10.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game emerging as a productive option in his first consistent action in Brazil's top league. Helping Paulistano make it to the playoffs with a 16-12 record, De Paula and his young teammates went on an improbable run to the Brazilian League Finals where they pushed a far more experienced Bauru team to a decisive fifth game, but ultimately came up short.
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Missing out on much of the NBA workout circuit as his team wrapped up their season, De Paula nonetheless opted to leave his name in the 2017 NBA Draft past the withdrawal deadline, banking on the marked improvement he showed in a number of areas already this season, and likely having received assurances he'll be picked in the mid to late second round at worst.
For all the strides De Paula has made, particularly with his decision-making, his physical tools remain perhaps his most interesting attribute as a prospect. Among the tallest point guards ever measured in our database, standing 6'6 with a 7'0 wingspan, De Paula towers above most floor generals, giving him the versatility to play/guard up to three positions at the NBA level, while also possessing decent athleticism and a solid frame.
In terms of what is different about De Paula now compared to a few years ago, it only takes a few minutes of watching him to see how far he's come in terms of decision-making and confidence. Playing a far bigger role, but used in a similar fashion as last season, with most of his offense coming in one-on-one and pick and roll situations, De Paula's turnover rate in the half court sits at a manageable 16.4% this season according to Synergy Sports Technology, a night and day improvement over the massive 32% rate he posted a year ago. De Paula still has room to grow as a playmaker, not always showing a great grasp of how to get his teammates involved, and picking up his dribble unnecessarily at times, but this season has been a major step in the right direction for the young Brazilian. His size and length gives him unique angles in which to find teammates, and he's unselfish looking to get the ball to teammates, often kicking ahead in transition or driving and dishing creatively off the bounce.
As a scorer, De Paula's strengths and weaknesses remain unchanged to some extent. He has some positive moments, making set shots with a somewhat rigid stroke, finishing above the rim in transition, and using his long strides to attack the rim and draw contact. However, he still struggles to finish plays, shooting only 41% from 2-point range and 33% from beyond the arc.
Lacking elite quickness and ball handling ability, De Paula can take what the defense gives him inside the arc, but still too often struggles against pressure, and isn't able to consistently create separation or find angles to the rim. To his credit, he's improved his ability to take smaller guards into the post and ranked as one of the NBB's more reliable one-on-one threats this season, but still has a lot of room to improve his scoring touch and shot selection, as he struggles to consistently convert what he creates inside the paint, only hitting 39 of his 116 (34%) attempts in the half-court this season according to Synergy. His excellent free throw rate (5.8 attempts per-40) helps salvage his efficiency to a certain degree, but it's questionable if he can draw fouls as prolifically against better defenses.
Still shooting the ball out in front of his face, with a slow, albeit more fluid release, and struggling to get by guys in the half court, De Paula remains unpolished offensively, but had a number of big scoring performances this season that showed his potential at the professional level when he has his full repertoire going. He's a willing passer, if not all that comfortable orchestrating a half-court offense, and certainly still has some untapped potential on the offensive end on the whole.
De Paula's ability to hit open 3-pointers with time and space is an important component of his NBA fit, as that could give him the ability to play either wing position alongside one or two smaller guards at his size. This type of positional versatility is coveted in today's NBA, and could help mask some of his shortcomings as a creator and pull-up jump-shooter. He improved his free throw percentage from 68 to 75% this season, and did hit over one 3-pointer per game this year in 27 minutes of action, so there is some for optimism still despite his funky mechanics.
Defensively, the Diadema native has been effective in spurts when he's fully engaged as his size and length are a plus, but he struggles to fight over screens and needs to take better angles and be a bit more physical to make up for his lack of great lateral speed. He does a tremendous job of getting in the passing lanes (2.2 steals per-40), is an excellent rebounder for his position (6.9 per-40) and shows the potential to defender guards, wings and even some combo forwards at times, which gives him unique versatility.
After a subpar showing at the 2015 Nike Hoop Summit practices and game, De Paula seemed to slowly fade off the NBA radar. He managed to turn things around this season with the benefit of playing time and freedom, which revitalized his draft stock after just having turned 21 in May. Showing what he can do when he's playing with confidence, De Paula's combination of size and length along with the flashes he's shown as a scorer and defender will earn him a spot in the second round. We'll likely see him next season in the NBA G-League, where he can continue to build on his promising year.