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Player Review: Danny Granger

by Mark Montieth |

June 12, 2013, 11:35 AM

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Age: 30
Years Pro: 8
Status: Will receive $14.2 million next season in the final year of his contract
Key Stats: Averaged 18.7 points and 5 rebounds two seasons ago.

Reviewing Danny Granger's season isn't difficult. He sat out the first half of the season with a knee injury. Then he played in five games in late February and early March. And then his knee problem flared again, and he sat out the rest of the season.

Five games. Seventy-five minutes. Twenty-seven points. Thank you and goodnight.

With Granger, it's all about his future with the Pacers, however limited that might turn out to be. It's a future that's dusk-in-a-rainstorm murky, yet offers the potential for brighter days. Downright sunny days, even. He's a one-time All-Star who led the Pacers in scoring for the five seasons prior to this one and he's 30 years old. Adding him to the team that took defending champion Miami to seven games in the conference finals could turn out to be a great thing.

Some Pacers fans consider Granger trade bait, given his uncertain health and the one year remaining on a contract that pays $14.2 million next season. The more logical strategy, however, is to see if his knee is healthy entering training camp, if he can reclaim most of the game he had prior to this past season and if he can find a new niche in the roster.

If the answers to those doubts are no, he has no value to other teams. If the answers are yes, he has immense value to the Pacers, who could become a serious title contender with him. Their bench automatically becomes better, whether Granger comes off it or Lance Stephenson goes back to it. Granger's stated preference is to start. That would move Paul George further out on the perimeter, something George wants to do. It also would move Stephenson to the bench, something he says he'll accept. Granger would bring more length, shooting ability and poise to the lineup than Stephenson. And Stephenson would in turn bring more scoring, athleticism and energy to the bench.

Granger also has made it clear the Pacers would no longer have to be “his” team. He would be content to be a complementary player – a scorer, primarily – who feeds off George and the others.

Yeah, who wouldn't want that job?

Still, the potential impact of inserting a healthy Granger into the starting lineup is intriguing. He can't wait to rejoin the team, and his teammates appear eager to have him back.

“It's scary; it's really scary,” Granger said in the locker room following the Game 7 loss in Miami. “What (George) can do and what I can do, it's exciting. For so many years I had to carry the load. It's tough on your body. Now I've got a 23-year-old I can tell, 'Here you go, go and do this. Go get it. Go get us a bucket.' Not to mention having a big man (Roy Hibbert) you can just toss the ball in to and say, 'Yeah, score a bucket for me and I'll run back to the other end.' I've never had that before.”

If Granger is a Pacer next season, he'll need to be careful not to focus too narrowly on scoring. It's a different team than the one he left in 2012, one that was among the best in the NBA in defense and rebounding without him. He'll need to carry his weight in those areas, as Stephenson did. He won't need to average the 18.7 points he scored in 2011-12, but he'll need to do more of the kind of dirty work he once tended to disregard.

Beyond next season, who knows? The Pacers will need the money they're now paying Granger to keep George. Granger would have to take a severe pay cut to remain with the team, but that's an issue for next summer. For now, he's likely got the best opportunity he's ever going to have to win a championship.

Granger actually contributed significantly to the Pacers last season. His absence allowed George to take over a lead role, one he eventually embraced. It also allowed Stephenson to establish himself as a legitimate NBA guard. Neither likely would be as advanced now if Granger had been playing. Then again, the Pacers might have reached the NBA Finals.

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