The Indiana Pacers expect small forward Danny Granger to return to the lineup either Wednesday against the Charlotte Bobcats, or in their first game after the All-Star break. He has not played in a single game this season due to a left knee injury.
His presence should help the Pacers, as they continue to battle for playoff seeding in the Eastern Conference. Specifically, three members of the team will benefit the most when the former All-Star gets back on the court.
When Granger returns to the starting lineup, he will replace Lance Stephenson. He has been solid in Granger's absence, averaging 8.4 points per game.
As a starter, Stephenson was only a complementary part of the offense. On the second unit, he will be the keystone.
This change will benefit Stephenson's style of play.
Eightpointsnineseconds.com's Jared Wade agrees that Stephenson will be a perfect fit coming off the bench. His creativity and playmaking ability will help a Pacers second unit that has struggled this season.
With Granger coming back, Stephenson becomes Indiana's sixth man. He has the opportunity to model his game after the Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Martin and the San Antonio Spurs' Manu Ginobili. Both play that role and are an integral part of their team's success.
Indiana Pacers center, Roy Hibbert, has struggled offensively in 2012-13.
A year ago, he averaged 12.8 points per game, while shooting 49.7 percent. This season, his production has dropped to 10.0 points per game, with a shooting percentage of 41.1 percent.
Granger back on the wing will create better offensive spacing.
The post will be open and Hibbert will have plenty of room to operate.
If defenses decide to double-team Hibbert, then a sharpshooter like Granger will be left alone. Granger is a career 38.4 percent three-point shooter, so opposing teams will not want to give him an open look.
Once Hibbert is able to play in a less crowded paint, he will be able to exploit one-on-one match-ups, like he did last season.
Out of this list of players, Paul George should be the most excited about Granger's return.
Last season Granger averaged 18.7 points per game. He is a proven scorer.
Opposing defenses will have to decide whether to focus on stopping Granger, or the much improved George. If they choose Granger, the first-time All-Star will have plenty of scoring opportunities.
Granger's point production will take pressure off of George to be the offensive leader he has been so far this season. Not having to carry the load means he can get more rest on the bench.
George currently plays an average 37.7 minutes per game. That is the highest on the team.
Better rested and with less offensive responsibilities, he can put more energy towards defense. George has already been a terror for some of the NBA's best scorers, including LeBron James and James Harden.
The addition of Granger should only cause George's game to improve in all facets.