The 2012 NBA regular season is less than one week away. Quietly but surely, that has the Indiana Pacers gearing up for an NBA title run that some view as improbable, but others see as a genuine possibility.
Let's end the debate right here. With their depth, defensive tenacity and top-tier coaching, the Pacers are a legitimate threat to win the Eastern Conference and NBA crown.
The question is, will Danny Granger be along for the ride? If they're hoping to contend, he better be.
This past May, rumors were swirling about a potential trade involving the former New Mexico Lobo. The proposed scenario would have seen Granger traded to the Charlotte Bobcats in return for the second overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft (via Sam Amico of Fox Sports).
That selection was used on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist—a player who happens to play the same position as Granger.
According to Bill Ingram of HoopsWorld.com, Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard is denying the notion that the team feels they are better without Granger. In fact, he believes that the team "needs" the seven-year veteran.
“Danny [Granger] was put into a position a few years ago where he needed to score a lot and now we don’t need his scoring as much, we need his overall game and he’s a heck of an overall player,” [Kevin] Pritchard said. “That’s what we need out of Danny and he gives it. He’s shown to be very unselfish, he’s given up a lot of his offense to be a better defensive player last year. We got the fifth-best record in the league last year, you don’t just say, “We don’t need him.” That’s a bunch of baloney. I don’t believe that.”
Ingram proceeded to say that the team needs more out of the supporting players.
“I think our growth has to be on [Paul George and Roy Hibbert]” Pritchard said. “I also think George Hill has to expand his game. He’s now a starter, we expect a lot out of him. What we like about him is that he really plays both ways, he can really defend and he makes great decisions on offense. We need that sort of calming influence and he gives it to us.”
Pritchard is correct in his evaluation of the team that he has built up. As long as he stays true to his word and continues to endorse Granger, the Pacers' dreams of an NBA championship in 2013 remain plausible.
Either trade him and fail or keep him and succeed.
Who Would Score?
If the Indiana Pacers were to trade Danny Granger, who would score the basketball? Although there is balance on the roster with the likes of David West, Roy Hibbert and Paul George, there is one important factor that we must acknowledge.
The second leading scorer on the Indiana Pacers in 2012 averaged a mere 12.8 points per game. With head coach Frank Vogel's tendency to let the perimeter shooting fly, it must be concerning that the players who tallied that number are frontcourt players West and Hibbert.
Until the Pacers acknowledge their greatest strength and build their offense from the inside out, it is imperative that they hold onto Granger.
Although their offense can often be described as directionless, a mere establishment of an offensive game plan would go a long way. It would also create opportunities for the lights-out shooting Granger to thrive, once again.
More important than the casual scoring opportunities, however, are the times in which the game is on the line. Although he lacks the reputation of a Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Durant, Granger is actually one of the most clutch scorers in the NBA.
In 2012, he shot 47.5 percent during clutch situations and ranked sixth amongst NBA players with 38.4 points per 48 clutch minutes (via 82games.com). That places him behind just Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul.
Two Years Remaining
Are you really going to trade a player with just two years left on his contract for financial purposes? Last time I checked, the Pacers were the furthest thing from a player in the potential Chris Paul sweepstakes.
Hold on to Danny Granger and take advantage of his abilities while your young players develop. If you opt to take a different route, don't expect those championship aspirations to hold any weight.
Granger is the glue that keeps this young team together. Although he may not be the superstar that the game's top small forwards have become, he is consistent enough where the Pacers can overcome a young player's off night.
Paul George Isn't There Yet
This may be difficult for biased fans to understand, but just because a player has star potential doesn't mean that he's going to reach it. Although Paul George has all of the physical attributes necessary to become a prominent scorer and all-around standout, he has shown no signs of having reached that level just yet.
To trade away an established scorer because there is a young player who may one day exceed his level of production would be detrimental to team success. It would also classify as basketball insanity.
Coming off of a season in which he averaged just 12.1 points per game, it's fair to say that George is still in the process of reaching his "lead scorer" upside. Don't forget, George posted a 2012 postseason average of 9.7 points on 38.9 shooting from the floor and 26.8 percent from beyond the arc.
How can we even begin to say that he's ready for the big stage?
Being capable of putting forth greatness is one step in the right direction. Unfortunately, having faith in one's abilities has never won a game. That honor goes to the players who actually perform up to the level expected of them.
Ride with Granger until George has reached the level expected of him. Otherwise, the Pacers can enjoy the Eastern Conference Finals from their couches.