How Danny Granger's Return Will Affect the NBA Central Division Race

Ernest Shepard@@ernestshepardAnalyst IIIFebruary 23, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 30: Danny Granger #33 of the Indiana Pacers reacts to a 93-78 win over the Orlando Magic in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NBA Playoffs on April 30, 2012 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana.  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 Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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The Indiana Pacers have placed the teams in the NBA Central on notice. Danny Granger will reportedly make his return against the Detroit Pistons. What does this mean for the Pacers and their division rivals?

The Milwaukee Bucks were the only team in the division to complete a deal at the NBA trade deadline. They sent guards Beno Udrih and Doron Lamb, along with forward Tobias Harris to the Orlando Magic for sharpshooter J.J. Redick, Ishmael Smith and center Gustavo Ayon. In a move that their general manager John Hammond called a “win-now” trade, the Bucks have positioned themselves to leapfrog their way to at least a No. 6 seed in the playoffs.

The Chicago Bulls, the other team hunting for a division crown, decided to stand pat. It was an unpopular move in the eyes of Reggie Rose. Rose is the older brother and manager of Bulls star guard Derrick Rose. Derrick Rose is still rehabbing his knee after tearing his ACL in Game 1 of last year’s playoffs.

It is uncertain whether Rose (Derrick) will play at all this season.

Danny Granger suiting up for the Pacers is the equivalent of a blockbuster trade.

Offensively, the Pacers get a huge boost from Granger, whose strong suit is scoring. The 29-year-old forward averaged 18.7 PPG last season. As a perimeter shooter, Granger will allow the Pacers to stretch the floor.

Adding a two-time NBA All-Star is a boom for any team, but the question remains of how Granger will mesh with emerging star Paul George.

Both players have played together, so inserting Granger into the lineup should be seamless. George has taken over as the face of the Pacer franchise. As long as Granger is willing to accept a secondary role on the team, they will be fine.

In a way, Granger’s knee injury was a blessing in disguise.

It allowed George to develop into one of the league’s brightest young stars. He can potentially become the Pacers' first superstar in the post-Reggie Miller era. After receiving his first All-Star nod, George did not disappoint, playing 20 minutes and scoring 17 points. He has the Pacers firmly in the NBA title discussion.

To win a championship, a team usually needs two star players. That is where Granger comes in.

Granger along with George gives the Pacers an effective one-two punch on the perimeter, while power forward David West provides low-post scoring. Granger may turn into the player who puts them over the top.

As for the race in the division, the Bulls will make a strong push, challenging the Pacers until the final weeks of the season.

If Derrick Rose comes back, the Bulls will have their equivalency to a major trade acquisition. They are only two games behind the Pacers and the two sides will face each other twice before the playoffs begin. Those two games will have a huge determining factor in which team wins the Central Division.

Consider the Bucks out of the picture at this point. They are seven games behind the Pacers. Despite the addition of Redick, they traded away their primary backup point guard. Redick is also an average defender at best.

Bringing in Redick does not equate to the return of Granger and the possible comeback of Derrick Rose. Redick will help the Bucks in terms of scoring and three-point shooting. His abilities fit the type of team the Bucks are seemingly trying to become—a high-powered, running offensive team. It will work to push them ahead in the standings, but it will not be enough to get them to the top of the division.

Granger’s pending return will have a lasting effect on his team as well as the NBA Central race. The pendulum swings in favor of the Pacers for now. The possible riposte of Derrick Rose to the Bulls will have the final say.