Danny Granger's Return Will Make the Indiana Pacers Legit Title Contenders

Andy HuSenior Writer IIFebruary 22, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 24:  Danny Granger #33 of the Indiana Pacers shoots against the Miami Heat in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on May 24, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.The Heat defeated the Pacers 105-93 to win the series. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

We all know how Paul George has vastly improved in all aspects of his game since the beginning of the season, and that's mainly due to the increased opportunity, as Danny Granger heals on the sideline.

Without Granger, the Indiana Pacers are still holding on to the third seed in the Eastern Conference, even though they maintain the 21st most efficient offense in the NBA (per Hollinger's Team Stats).

That's certainly better than when they were dead last in that ranking earlier in the season, but they are still a mediocre offensive team without Granger on the court.

The Pacers are already in championship consideration this season with the absence of Granger, and they will become legitimate championship contenders once he returns.


Improve the Offense

In the last 10 years, only the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons have won a championship while ranking outside the top 12 in offensive efficiency. That doesn't mean the Pacers have no shot at contending for a title, but the odds are certainly against them at this point, considering that they are one of the worse offensive teams in the league.

On the other hand, Granger has been the leading scorer for the Pacers for the previous five seasons before this one. He also boasts an exceptional career offensive rating of 110, higher than any other Pacer on the roster right now (per Basketball-Reference.com). 

During the 2012 playoffs, Granger yielded a staggering +29.4 net difference (per Basketball-Reference.com) per 100 possessions when he was on the floor versus when he was on the bench. When he was on the court, the team's effective field-goal percentage was at a respectable 47.3 percent, but that number dropped to 41.5 percent when he wasn't.

At this point in his career, he may not be the best player on the team anymore, but there's no doubting his offensive prowess.


Draw Double-Teams

Although Granger isn't as explosive as he was a few years ago and he'll probably be even slower once he returns from his knee injury, he is still one of the most versatile scorers in the league.

Although the playoff teams consist of capable wing defenders, the 6'8", 225-pound Granger will still pose problems for smaller defenders because he can score from anywhere on the floor. He can post-up smaller defenders, take bigger forwards off the dribble and shoot as well as anybody.

Paul George may be the best all-around player, and David West is a beast on the block, but their scoring abilities are nowhere near as dangerous as Granger's are.

Assuming that he comes back healthy, Granger will be the most effective scorer on the team. Good defenses could stop West and George right now, but they cannot stop a red-hot Granger.


Solid Defender

Granger's defense is one of the most overlooked attributes of his game. I'm not going as far as calling him a premier defender, but he's fundamentally sound defensively and can keep most of his opponents in front of him.

According to 82games.com, Granger held opposing small forwards to a PER of just 12.7. Not only is that a surprisingly low rating, but the talent at the small forward position is probably greater than any other position in the league today. 

It just goes to show how underrated Granger's defense has been, as it's one of the areas of his game that has improved drastically since he came into the league.

This year, George is holding opposing small forwards to a PER of 11.9, so Granger's return will certainly help the team maintain a tight hold at that position and give George a breather.

They will definitely need him if they want to defeat the Miami Heat in a playoff series.