Indiana Pacers: What Danny Granger's Return Will Mean for the Pacers
According to Mike Wells of USA Today, Granger has already started participating in shooting drills on offense, but hasn't begun any contact exercises. He is expected to increase his non-contact activity during this week and will soon begin practicing with the team.
Granger's return is just around the corner, but what will his return mean for this current Indiana Pacers team? How will his return impact his teammates and opposing teams?
The following slideshow will break down some of the effects of Granger when he steps back onto the court.
Boost the Offense
If there's one thing that Granger is known for, it's his scoring ability.
According to Hollinger's Team Stats, the Pacers are ranked 29th in the league in offensive efficiency, which is terrible for a team that's third in the Eastern Conference and looking to compete with the upper elite of the Eastern Conference.
However, when Granger's on the floor, he contributes to an exceptional career offensive rating of 110, which would certainly help the Pacers' lackluster offense this season. His 106 career defensive rating isn't great, but it won't hurt the Pacers as long as they maintain their suffocating team defense.
For comparison, the Pacers were tied for eighth in offensive efficiency last season with Granger playing 62 of the 66 games. Without him for 43 games so far, the offense has been atrocious at times.
Decreased Minutes for Some Teammates
Not only was Granger the team's most prominent scorer last season, but he also logged more minutes than any other Pacer.
In the 2011-2012 season, Granger registered 33.3 minutes per game, so it's hard to see him having a diminished role when he works his way back into game shape. He might not log as many minutes due to Paul George's emergence, but his return to the floor will mean that his other teammates will play less.
Gerald Green and Lance Stephenson are the two players who will probably be the most affected. Green has been awful in his 21 minutes per game, averaging just seven points on 35 percent shooting. On the other hand, Stephenson has been solid in nearly 28 minutes every night, but he only garnered 10 minutes per game before this season.
With Green benched recently by Frank Vogel due to his poor performance this season, he probably won't get any minutes at all once Granger returns.
That's a good thing, though, as Granger can probably contribute more to the team with his hands tied behind his back than Green. Though it would probably stunt the growth of third-year player Stephenson, the young shooting guard can still provide high energy and efficient scoring when he's playing.
Take Pressure off of Paul George
Paul George went from being a role player last season to "the man" of the team and future face of the franchise in less than a year.
He's averaging a career-high 37 minutes per game, which is over three minutes more than the closest Pacer. It also trumps his career minutes-per-game average by nearly nine minutes.
George's usage rate has also jumped up to 23.8 percent, so the ball goes to him in more possessions than anyone else on the court. Unfortunately, his field-goal percentage has dropped each year since he received a bigger role each year since he came into the league (per Basketball Reference).
Once Granger returns, he probably won't be the focal point of this team like he was the past five seasons. Instead, he, along with David West, will take some pressure off of the 22-year-old George.
As mentioned earlier, Granger has been the leading scorer for the team in the past five seasons. Now, he can take a back seat to the ascending youngster and support him by taking some of the burden off of his shoulders.
Push the Team to the Next Level
In the last nine seasons, only one team won a championship while having an offensive efficiency worse than over half the teams in the league—the 2004 Detroit Pistons.
However, even the Pacers team this year can't hold a candle to the 19th-most efficient offense of the Pistons in 2003-2004. The Pacers currently have the second-worst offensive efficiency in the league, ranking at 29th and only scoring 98.6 points per 100 possessions (per Hollinger Team Stats).
If the Pacers want to compete in the playoffs or contend for a championship, they will need that extra offensive boost from Granger.
They have the best defensive efficiency in the NBA, but the odds are against them because no other team in the past nine years has won a championship without being in the top 20 in offensive efficiency.
Without Granger, the Pacers are looking at second-round exit from the playoffs. With Granger, they have a chance to win against any elite team in league.