After months upon years spent trying to find a superstar replacement for Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey finally managed to pilfer James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder this summer.
Now his task is one of surrounding "The Beard" with proper complimentary pieces, and according to Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio, he could be well on his way:
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.
HOOPSWORLD goes one further, claiming that "Morey had it on his daily to-do list to call and ask the Pacers if they were ready to part with Granger yet." (via Hoops Hype). That's pretty intense stuff.
Now I'm no Bill Simmons. The NBA trade machine is a cubist art form that I haven't quite mastered. I won't pretend to know exactly what it would cost to wangle Danny Granger from Indiana. But assuming the Pacers' asking price is reasonable—which, following the emergence of Paul George, it sounds like it is—this is a deal Morey would be wise to make.
James Harden has catalyzed the Rockets into unexpected playoff contenders this year, but not the kind Morey wants in Houston. They're playoff contenders in that they're contending for a playoff berth, not because they're capable of contending in the playoffs.
And not for a lack of talent. On paper, the Houston Rockets have a roster capable of competing with most true playoff contenders—if not this year then in the next one, two or three. Their problem is more one of cohesion.
In basketball we often talk of "redundant skill sets," and no team better exemplifies that than this year's Rockets. Their starting point guard, Jeremy Lin, likes creating off the dribble; their starting shooting guard, James Harden, likes creating off the dribble; and their starting small forward, Chandler Parsons, likes creating off the dribble.
What they lack is a perimeter guy who prefers being created for off the dribble. Not that any of the trio detests catching the ball in open space; no one is that crazy. But they're all more comfortable with their hands cupping a basketball, not held sternum-level yelling "I'm open!"
It's the reason the Thunder have been just as good (if not better) since downgrading their sixth man from James Harden to Kevin Martin. The team isn't quite as good on paper, but they mesh together more conventionally. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant get better each day at creating for others, and Martin is as deadly as they come when he's created for.
In Danny Granger, the Houston Rockets would be getting a similar player. They'd be getting a man whose knee might not be what it once was (part of the reason Indiana is amenable to trading him), but is still plenty capable of spotting up in the corner and hitting open threes.
Put him in a starting lineup next to James Harden and watch what happens. Houston already does well from beyond the arc, nailing 10.1 threes per game, but with that combination of skill-sets, they could truly thrive.
Here's the part where I remind you that I don't know what it would take for Houston to get Granger. But let's just say, for hypothetical sake, that it wouldn't cost Chandler Parsons. Can you imagine how deadly he would be leading the Rockets' second unit? He could give a James Harden or a Jeremy Lin extended rest without sacrificing too much in the way of perimeter playmaking.
The issue of Granger's health is a risk worth taking, too. Even if he hasn't managed to play yet this season. Per Indianapolis Star writer Mike Wells:
Danny Granger took part in a live half court scrimmage for the first time 2day. And before u ask there's still NO timetable for his return.— Mike Wells (@MikeWellsNBA) January 31, 2013
He's moving along nicely, and could even make an appearance before the All-Star break. Given the boon his presence would foster, even if he doesn't have all his once-existent burst back, he should still be sought-after.
The Rockets are middling around the pack of fringe playoff teams out West. If they don't make a move, that's likely where they'll end up. Come late April, one break here or there could be the difference between making or missing the playoffs.
However, with Granger in the mix, playing off Houston's incumbent stars, they'd ascend to the next tier—the one that includes the likes of Denver and Golden State.
And for what the Rockets were supposed to be in 2012-13, that's not a half-bad place to be.