The Return of Danny Granger

danny granger

One of the most impressive aspects of the Indiana Pacers’ rise to the top of the NBA is that they’ve done so largely without the player who was once their leading scorer. The emergence of Paul George has been the major talking point with these Pacers, and it’s also allowed plenty of fans to forget about that Danny Granger guy.

Granger, who was the fifth leading scorer in the NBA in 2008-09 at 25.8 points per game, has been hampered by injuries for the past two seasons. Indiana has done an admirable job without him, largely through increased contributions from George and Lance Stephenson.

While his long-term future with the team is undeniably in question, Granger is finally back on the floor. He’s an expensive backup; with a salary of just over $14 million, he is the highest-paid Indiana player not named Roy Hibbert. Granger is also in the last year of his deal, although this should be of little concern to Indiana at the moment.

Regardless, Indiana’s former go-to guy is a major factor when it comes to dethroning LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

He won’t be in the starting lineup, barring any major injuries to Stephenson or George, but Frank Vogel seems determined to give Granger almost all of the backup wing minutes off the bench.

Through six games, Granger has been far from his old self. A quick look at the box scores will show just three quality performances: games against Boston, Cleveland, and Toronto. In the other three games we have to look at, two against Brooklyn and one against Houston, Granger shot a combined 4-for-23 for 13 points with 7 turnovers.

As you take a look at some more advanced numbers, the story doesn’t look much better. Despite a 21.9% usage rate, which is just a bit below his 24.2% career average, Granger’s offensive rating is a measly 88, according to Basketball-Reference. For comparison purposes, Granger posted an impressive 111 in 2011-12, 107 in 2010-11, 108 in 2009-10, and 114 in 2008-2009, per BBall-Ref.

88 points per 100 possessions? Championship!

On a serious note, it will probably take Granger a while to get back into a groove. He has now played just 11 games over the past two seasons, and he’s now trying to find a way to contribute on a team that has already figured out how to win without him. Not to mention, Granger only came off the bench twice between 2007-2012. This is a huge adjustment for someone who is accustomed to starting games and constantly being the focal point of an offense. Not only has Paul George established himself as the alpha dog, but Stephenson has taken his game to another level as well.

If you’ve taken a look at the Eastern Conference at any point this season, you’ll notice that the Pacers will have to try awfully hard to finish below second place. They won’t need Granger for playoff positioning purposes, and an Eastern Conference Finals between the Heat and Pacers seems inevitable. The Atlanta Hawks, the third best team in the East, just lost their best player, Al Horford, for the year. Miami seems content with prioritizing health over winning every single night, particularly when it comes to Dwyane Wade’s knees. Even without Granger, the worst-case scenario for Indiana is a two seed.

The Pacers shouldn’t be challenged in the playoffs until they face the Heat, unless there is some sort of miraculous Derrick Rose return. Against Miami, Granger’s defense and supporting offensive role could be what finally pushes the Pacers into the NBA Finals.

Paul George is Indiana’s best defensive option against LeBron, but does Frank Vogel want to have George on James for an entire game? Foul trouble becomes an immediate concern for anyone guarding James, and the Pacers won’t win many games with George on the bench. A better strategy is spend some minutes with George on Wade, where he can use his length to play a few steps away and stay away from contact. George has roughly five inches on Wade, although his long arms actually makes his advantage even bigger.

Wade is still an elite player when healthy, but George should be able to force Wade into jump shots, where he is clearly not at his best. Of course, if George is on Wade, someone needs to guard LeBron. Danny, you’re up.

By no means should we expect Granger to transform into Bruce Bowen. At 6’9”, he simply has to be good enough to keep George fresh and out of foul trouble. It’s easier said than done, but Granger is capable of holding LeBron around his averages; even if that means he’s scoring 30 points. With Roy Hibbert behind him protecting the rim and George on Wade, Granger would have plenty of help to get the job done.

If the Pacers decide to match the Heat’s “small ball” lineups at times, Granger will almost certainly be on the floor. When Vogel decides to have two bigs in the game, it’s all but decided that Granger will be playing whenever George or Stephenson are on the bench. This should add up to big minutes, most likely more than the 21 minutes per game he has averaged so far this season.

This is no longer Danny Granger’s team. He’s a grossly overpaid backup at this point due to the development of the wings ahead of him, but this doesn’t mean he’s not important. Thanks to a disastrous Eastern Conference, Granger has the entire regular season to find his place. Come playoff time, particularly against the Heat, Granger will get his shot.

Instead of being the team’s leading offensive option, his role will probably that of a LeBron defender, spot-up shooter and situational scorer. It’s likely not exactly how he envisioned his career playing out, but it could be what gets the Pacers into the NBA Finals.

Topics: Guess Who's Back?

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  • Realist

    He’s grossly overpaid given current production, for sure. But he sure as hell earnt that contract. He deserves that ring he’s gonna get too. Here’s hopin’.

  • Derek Cooper

    Id rather not loose danny next season. But unless we make a kinda big money moving trade he’s gone. And lance could easily go a bit over 10mil/yr on his upcoming contract and we can’t loose him besides beiing good he’s fun to watch and that’s money. If lance goes over 10 the only non trade option I see is cutting scolas partially guarenteed 4.5 mil next yr_ so loosing danny and scola? Maybe it’d all pan out but i wouldn’t be against a good trade moving either west+little stuff or g.hill+little stuff. I like’em both but stephenson-hibbert-george are more core-essential I think.___so heres my amateur trade idea based largely on assumptions(of course ppl whose job it is have way more knowledge than me_I just enjoy making up a plan)__the big assumption in my plan is that granger is healthy probably all the way_and has just permanently lost what little hops he used to have. Who knows how reliable or shakey his knees truly are _I’m pretending they’re dependable. Anyhow_ the trade_ West_12m Watson_2m Copeland_3m Johnson_1m /// trade to the wizards for/// Trevor Ariza_7.7m and expiring filler whom we’d mostly cut _S.Brown_3.5m Singleton _1.7 Vesley_3.5m Al Harrington_1.4 (wouldn’t cut him tho 3rd string pf) that makes 18m traded for 17.8m which works cuz they have to be pretty close. Ariza is a 6’8” x 7’2” (height x wingspan) wing who’s athletic smart/controled very good at D _he’s having a good season id expect he’d score a bit less here but__35min_15ppg on 45/42/74 shooting 6R 3A 2St 2to. And he’s 28 yrs old+ was a key roleplayer in a lakers championship run way back when. Id like to see a starting lineup of 1_L.St. 6’5” 2_P.G. 6’9” 3_T.A. 6’8” 4_D.G. 6’9” 5_R.H. 7’2” ___with four shooters roy has more room to operate_ and more room for lance and paul to drive. We’re very inconsistant in feeding hibbert _financially we re paying him a big peice of the pie_ he has size and offensive skills and imo its financially unefficient and irresponsible not to use that. He has good moves that would only improove with consistant use and better spacing. Also he’s a willing and good passer_ granted he’s been turnover prone at times but again spacing and use can help that. Also more scoring chances may just get him more excited about D and rebounding. He needs to grow between now and our playoff showdown with miami_ that happens by making him some space and feeding him the ball. With west moved it should bbe easier to give him the ball more.____now danny granger as a stretch four__ he’s only like 12 lbs lighter than west and non-jumpy as he is he’s got a knack for blocking a shot here and there. I believe he’d be a little weaker than west against the occaisional banging inside style pf but not a lot. And I think he’d cover the stretch fours better than west…and that’s miami u know. Also considering the other starters they could give a little help I think if needed. This may look like a less post oriented starting group but really its the opposite_we can spread out and post lance or whoever of the 4 perimeter guys has a mismatch. I imagine danny mostly spotting up for threes off of roy post up or lance+paul drives and also in transition. Danny as a trailer shooting 3s in transition from the four spot is efficient offence. I’ve been impressed with some of dannys drives lately reaching around ppl with scoopy finishes kinda like scola . So transition offense improoves and maybe transition D as well. Ariza also I imagine playing off of lance paul+ roy_ he’s good in transition finishing at the rim_has decent handles for a sf and an ok passer. No doubt lance would maybe have some struggles adjusting to the point guard spot_ but he needs to grow_ we need him_ and when he get rolling he often shoots a great% and makes everyone else better. of coarse lance and paul handling the ball might be a concern since they turn it over quite a lot_but again playing the spread offense may make things a lot smoother and easier maybe even helping reduce turnovers. Rebounding wise I think danny can do almost just as good as west_ he had 5R in 21mins tonite_if its a focus of his I don’t think its a problem. And ariza is an awsome wing rebounder 6 a game_but u know how if paul or lance decides to go out and have a big rebounding game they can go get 10 _yea arizas the same way. So starting unit rebounding I believe would take a nice little jump. George Hill I strongly believe would produce much better if his job was to come off the bench as an aggressive scoring point guard. Currently the way it is now there’s too many other scorers he needs to let get their shots. Honestly he’s better than our setup allows him to be. Also him as a backup point let’s us have that hugestarting lineup that creates helpful mismatches. Id have him play like 28mins at backup point so actually its only like 20 mins with lance there. Then for the rest of lances mins he’d just fill in backup wing minutes. In the same way paul could bump down and eat up some back up sf mins. Granger I have at 28 pf mins and 6 sf mins. Scola id play a bit more than he currently does 20 pf mins and 6 center mins. 34 center mins to hibbert and 8 to mihinmi. I hate having mihinmi be 1/5 of the offence ever but hey good on D. So for like 6 mins a game u’d have the not very rimprotecting 4+5 combo of granger+scola but hey great spacing for great offence. So of course scola+g.hill are the offensive punch off the bench. And because wed have such interchangabilty of parts we could have starting level guys all game except mihinmi for 8 and butler would need to play like 6 mins….just because I want to not play g.hill at 2 guard cuz he’s small there. Id rather stay big. Also with the starting group u could switch picks on D pretty easily. In my opinion we’d be a team whose system and parts complement eachother a lot better. Better production on offence and D. Only concern being scolas up in mins is a weak spot on D. I like his offence+rebounding but u could cut down his mins and keep granger there at the pf spot more and then u’d just have to give butler a little more wing mins which ain’t bad. This would put our guys who we’re committed to financialy in position to grow and produce. And next summer is not a bad financial situation at all. We’d have around 27 and a bit million left to spend on resigning lance_ ariza_ and granger. Granger id hope to be a guy that gets like 6R 12-15pts and plays decent defence..and provides spacing…30 or 31yrs old this summer with knee trouble history and he wants to be here so idk 5 or 6 mil? 10 or more for lance_ 8 for ariza…if so that leaves 3 or 4 mil wiggle room til the projected 75.7 lux tax threshold. Also another big point summer after this summer hibbert has a player option__so hey give him the ball more so he’ll be happier and all the more likely to stick around. As another trade option u could do scola_g.hill_copland for ariza and filler but in that case wed need to keep watson so wed have a little chunk less money come summer. I like the 1st option. From the wizards perspective they want to go for the playoffs and have a little taste of success. This gives them a frontcourt rotation of nene west and gortat. Also ariza good as he is is eating up some miins that their young wings could be developing. And cope is a nice gun to have in the playoffs. And watsons a good solid cheap vet. So it seems good for them maybe_depending on their longterm financial plans…if they don’t mind the 12mil for this yr and 2 more(if he picks up the po) commitment I think he’d be good for them. I do think west is awsome but with the commitments the pacers have to roy_paul_hill_and soon to be lance_I don’t think we can feed him the ball enough for him to produce up to hiscontract level without neglecting the development of our core of lance paul and roy. Also again danny may work great as a stretch4 and improove overall offensive flow and efficientcy compared to roy and david both being inside.rotation of nene west andway

    • Ian

      Might read this, if you used paragraph breaks and was half as long. Sorry man but that is a serious wall of text! My head was hurting after about 3 lines.

      • 15points126seconds

        Haha I agree with Ian. I made it a little further, here’s his trade proposal if you’re curious:
        the trade_ West_12m Watson_2m Copeland_3m Johnson_1m /// trade to the wizards for/// Trevor Ariza_7.7m and expiring filler whom we’d mostly cut _S.Brown_3.5m Singleton _1.7 Vesley_3.5m Al Harrington_1.4

        • Ian

          What is the goal of this trade? This would be insane to make during this season as it would make us much worse than we are now. If the goal is to just clear cap room to sign Lance and resign Danny after the season, Danny can’t play the 4 full time and Scola can’t play 30 minutes a night either. Danny’s a stretch 4 at best and even then too small really. Ariza is an average player having a career year (making him slightly above average) and I’m not sure what we’d do with him anyway since he plays the same position as Danny and Paul George?

          • Derek Cooper

            Well when lance was blowing up the statsheet nearly every game it got me thinking cuz if he kept being that good he’d go over the 10mil we’ll have available. My deal was semi-imaginary cuz its like IF we could count on grangers good health. Yea I was thinkin grange would be ok defending most 4′s__and we could always zone it up or have some tricks. But it was about financial sustainability__and setting up hibberts offence in particular and the pacers offence as a whole to do better. Yea its funny cuz we send the wiz more talent _but we could rearrange our talent differently and be ok + flexible financially this summer. But yea if grange was healthy and not too bad bangin with the occaisional beefy big dude I think we’d function better……but its rough too cuz west is a good leader+ tough…..

          • 15points126seconds

            i just think you don’t mess up the chemistry/rotation when its working so well. let the future take care of itself, right now we’re all in with the guys we have. as we should be

          • Derek Cooper

            All about the rotation_ starters_ stephenson-p.george-ariza-granger-hibbert_ backups-g.hill and scola play about 28 and 26 mins then just a little dash of butler and mihinmi. All about the spread lineup making space to post hibbert and post lance vs opposing pointguards….space for driving….and g.hill coming in gunning off the bench…hill with the current starters don’t have much room to shine up to his potential…yup.