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Player Analysis: Danny Granger

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive ||

June 7, 2012

Before diving headlong into other matters, let us first explode a myth.

Danny Granger is not a traditionally slow starter.

We heard that a lot this year, as Granger slogged through the first month with a shooting percentage that looked more like a batting average. While it is true Granger tends to put up some ugly numbers in the preseason, once the lights go on he has been ready for the opening act.

Until this year.

In the first 12 games this season, Granger averaged 15.3 points, shot .337 from the field and .300 from the 3-point line.

Slow start, yes. Typical, no.

Let's look at the first 12 games of the previous four seasons:

  • 2010-11 – 21.1 points, .439 overall, .419 from the arc
  • 2009-10 – 25.2 points, .424 overall, .370 from the arc
  • 2008-09 – 23.8 points, .461 overall, .375 from the arc
  • 2007-08 – 18.1 points, .456 overall, .371 from the arc

See anything resembling a slow start in there?

Whatever the reason, Granger spotted the 2011-12 season a month before rounding into form. That the team went 9-3 in those first 12 games was even more remarkable, but hardly a sign the Pacers did not need Granger in order to succeed.

For that argument, there is another statistic. When he led the team in scoring, the Pacers went 25-10. When he did not, they were 17-14.

The point being: even as the talent around him has grown, Granger is still the guy the Pacers rely upon the most, at least when it comes to scoring. But they need to be able to rely upon him for a full season in 2012-13.

"He needs to have the mindset of getting off to a better start than he has in years past," Coach Frank Vogel said. "He's got to have a stronger September than he's ever had, and late August, building up to training camp so he's ready to go when we start, and not be like a lot of veterans in the league who use training camp to work themselves into game shape."

Once Granger found his stride, he was very much his old self. He led the team in scoring for the fifth consecutive season, averaging 19.5 the rest the way. Still, his final 18.7 average was his lowest since 2006-07 -- his second season in the NBA. His efficiency suffered, as his shooting percentage of .416 represented not only a career low but a third consecutive season of decline -- from .447 in 2008-09 to .428 in '09-10 to .425 in '10-11. His rebound average (5.0) also was his lowest since '06-07.

The old saying in the NBA is if you're not getting better, you're getting worse. The Pacers would very much like to see Granger go to work on some of the flaws in his game in order to round out his skill set. He is one of the deadliest shooters in the league and can be a very good defender when so inclined.

But his floor game remains incomplete.

"I think he regressed with his ballhandling and his pick-and-roll game this year for whatever reason," Vogel said. "That's something I've challenged him to get back to because when he was an All-Star we were featuring him a lot in the pick-and-roll game and he was becoming a really good decision-maker. That's something I think he can get back to."

After taking a step forward as a postseason leader a year ago, averaging 21.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists against the Bulls, Granger was not as much of a factor this year. After a decent series against Orlando, he struggled mightily with the Heat, averaging 13.3 points and shooting .377.

Being defender by LeBron James most of the series will do that to a player but the Miami formula was simple: crowd Granger, take away his airspace for the jump shot and essentially dare him to try to win off the dribble.

"We'd like to see Danny do things better," Larry Bird said. "If he puts the ball on the floor more than three times it scares me to death. So obviously ballhandling is an area I'd like to see him work on this summer.

"I thought his shot selection was a little better this year. He needs to rebound, I know he can rebound. He's got to take his game up, also, for us to have success."

It is not just upon the shoulders of young players Paul George, Roy Hibbert and George Hill to carry the Pacers to a collectively higher level through individual improvement. It also is up to veterans like Granger to not just augment their skills to be better at the finish, but be better prepared from the opening tip.

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