Grading Danny Granger's Return for the Indiana Pacers
It's unfair to evaluate a player after a single game under these circumstances, but due to Granger's potential importance to the Pacers down the stretch, it's worth chronicling where he is right now.
If there's any doubt about the hype surrounding his return, check the tape.
Eat your heart out, Derrick Rose.
Because Granger has the impressive distinction of being the Pacers' leading scorer in each of the last five seasons, it's only fair to start with this bright spot, one of the strengths of his game.
With 9:25 remaining in the fourth quarter, Granger hit a 15-foot jumper from the left baseline, a bucket that gave Indiana a 20-point lead.
That lone highlight concludes the list of offensive achievements from Granger's comeback game.
Never one to force the issue by driving, Granger stayed true to his game, settling almost exclusively for jumpers when the ball swung to him or when he had a favorable matchup. The rest of the Pacers certainly weren't making it a point to set him up, but he did get a few looks off of screens and as a release valve on the weak side.
On the night, Granger shot just 1-of-10 from the field, with just one attempt from inside five feet. It's tempting to say he was merely feeling things out in his first return to action, but that's not entirely accurate when looking beyond his stats.
Granger's 10 shots came in just 19 minutes. So, if there's any other encouraging sign, it's that Granger's aggressiveness is in midseason form.
From an accuracy standpoint, though, it was pretty obvious that he was rusty.
Offensive Grade: D-
If one statement about the 2012-13 iteration of the Pacers is certain, it's that Indiana doesn't need any more help on the defensive end.
With the league's most dominant group of defenders, the Pacers have the luxury of hiding Granger on the opponent's least-threatening wing player. In this case, Granger spent much of his time on the court matched up against forward Kyle Singler.
As such, there weren't many one-on-one opportunities on which to evaluate his play.
But, as a team defender, Granger performed very well.
The Pacers thrive on help defense and precise rotations, both facets in which Granger demonstrated he could excel. On one of his first sequences, he rotated down to help on Greg Monroe, blocking his shot from behind and starting a break.
Not every play had such a spectacular result, but through his efficient movement and sound rotations, Granger looked like a player prepared to hunker down on D alongside his similarly committed teammates.
Defensive Grade: A-
In retrospect, how Granger looked from a physical standpoint in his first game back is probably more significant than his lackluster performance.
After missing so much time with patellar tendinosis, Granger appeared to be in playing shape. He logged 19 minutes, and although he appeared winded when he hit the bench, it's not like he was dragging a bum leg up and down the court.
If there was any sign in particular that he'd lost a step, it came with 7:30 left in the second quarter. Granger was slow to react to a rebound off of a missed Detroit layup, bobbling the ball and eventually giving it back to the Pistons. That mistake resulted in a Charlie Villanueva three-pointer that actually gave the Pistons the lead.
Obviously, that error didn't come back to haunt the Pacers, but it is still a noteworthy error that Granger might not have made at 100 percent health.
Basically, there were no obvious signs that he was in pain or unable to compete at the level of a starter. Insignificant as that may seem, it's probably more telling for the Pacers than Granger's 1-of-10 shooting performance.
Fitness Grade: B+
The Pacers' stifling defense turned this game into such a disjointed, arrhythmic affair. Given the tone of the game, it was difficult to get a feel for the way Granger will fit in with his teammates.
But make no mistake, his effect on Indiana's terrific chemistry is the most important thing to monitor as he works himself back into the rotation.
Granger rarely spent time on the court with Paul George, a noteworthy shift in the rotation. Indiana's new alpha dog plays the same position as Granger and, in large part, occupies many of the same spots on the floor that the elder alpha dog prefers.
It stands to reason that the two wings won't log many minutes together at first, but if the Pacers want to maximize the talent on their roster, it will be important to find a way to get them both onto the floor together eventually.
Chemistry Grade: Incomplete
Overall, Granger's return wasn't great. However, the Pacers should be relieved it wasn't an unmitigated disaster, either. The missed shots will eventually fall with more reps and the defense looked just fine.
As soon as coach Frank Vogel gets each player's role established, it looks like Indiana will enjoy having its former star back in the lineup.
Overall Grade: C
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