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Danny Granger’s Return Makes Indiana Pacers Legitimate Contenders

dfavale February 4, 2013 Dan Favale No Comments

Danny Granger can be the answer for an Indiana Pacers team without a whole lot of questions.

I’ve penned a number of thoughts on the star forward since he was shut down before the start of the season with a knee injury. Most have been responses to trade rumors that I simply don’t agree with. And to an extent, what follows is no exception.

Why?

Because according to Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio, the Pacers have reportedly shopped Granger:

Houston is one team reported to have a keen eye on Indiana forward Danny Granger. The Pacers aren’t totally against keeping the 29-year-old forward, who has missed all of the season with a knee injury. But following the emergence of All-Star Paul George, they are taking and making exploratory calls.

It’s worth noting that “exploratory calls” mean nothing, nor should they. Because the Pacers shouldn’t be trading Granger. Not right now, at least.

Admittedly, I don’t buy into Indiana has a legitimate title contender. Do I believe they’re a threat in the East? Absolutely, especially against smaller teams like the Miami Heat and New York Knicks. That said, I don’t see them matching up well against teams in the Western Conference. Teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and a healthy Los Angeles Clippers team. Hell, I’m not even sure they match up well against a healthy Los Angeles Lakers.

It’s not that the Pacers aren’t immensely talented as a group. They’re first in rebounds grabbed (45.5) and second in points allowed (89.9) per game. But they’re also 29th in points dropped (92) per game as well. As such, they’re offense, or lack thereof, does bother me.

Enter Granger.

Per NBA.com, Indiana’s head coach Frank Vogel believes the forward could be back before the All-Star break:

Pacers coach Frank Vogel says Danny Granger could be back on the court before the All-Star break in mid-February.

Granger has been out all season with a patellar tendinosis in his left knee, but was cleared to participate in full contact practice for the first time Thursday. Vogel says he worked for 20 minutes in half-court sets.

In early November, the Pacers said Granger could miss up to three months after getting an injection in his injured knee. Granger has been mostly quiet since the announcement.

Vogel did not give a specific target date for Granger’s return but acknowledged he’d like Granger to “get his feet wet” before the All-Star game Feb. 17 so they can start working him into the lineup. Vogel says Granger is in good physical shape but not game shape.

I understand the Pacers may not want to pay him $13.7 million this season and $14-plus million next season, but this is a guy who led the team in scoring (18.7 points per game) last year. He’s a three-point threat, can create his own shot yet excels off the ball and is an underrated defender. Why would the Pacers give that up right now?

His knee injury is of some concern, but this is the first time in his career he’s missed more than 20 games in a single season. Why would a team in need of offense give up arguably it’s most potent source before they give it a go with him? Because of Paul George?

Let’s not be too hasty. The kid’s a two-way star, but does that mean Granger can’t help this team nonetheless?

Of course not, he provides some much-needed offense without drastically compromising Indiana’s defensive conscience. And that’s exactly what the Pacers need. In the playoffs, wins over the Heat aren’t going to come as easy in a seven-game series. We saw that much last season. The pace of play is slower, and thus favors the Pacers, but it’s going to take a balanced offensive and defensive attack to truly contend with the Heat and any of the powerhouses in the Western Conference.

Don’t get me wrong, Indiana is good, bordering on great. Granger, however, can push them past that plateau and into legitimate greatness.

Does the possibility exist for him to go bust?

Definitely, but with the trade deadline rapidly approaching and him not having played a second of meaningful basketball, the Pacers are going to have to sell low on him anyway. So why not give it a shot? If it doesn’t work out, Indy can move him over the summer; they’ll still be plenty of takers then.

For now, though, the Pacers should retain Granger. Not just because he can score, but rather in hopes that he can make them a better, a more complete team.

One that can’t be refuted as a legitimate title contender.

Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.


 

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