Grading Danny Granger's Comeback for Indiana Pacers

Haddon AndersonAnalyst IMarch 9, 2013

ORLANDO, FL - MAY 05: Forward Danny Granger #33 (R) of the Indiana Pacers drives against Forward Hedo Turkoglu #15 of the Orlando Magic in Game four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Amway Center on May 5, 2012 in Orlando, Florida. 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 Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

Danny Granger's recent return to the Indiana Pacers created hype as the Eastern Conference playoffs near.

Unfortunately, his comeback has been a blatant disappointment thus far. His current return grade rests at a D.

Granger missed the first 54 games of the 2012-13 season due to a knee injury, but the Pacers hung around the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference without him. Amidst this, there was even reason to speculate if Indiana's better without Granger, because his absence sparked Paul George's development as a superstar.

While there is perhaps some logic to such thoughts, the truth is that it surely doesn't hurt the Pacers to have a healthy Granger in the mix. A player of his caliber, who has led Indiana in scoring the past five seasons, is a potent ingredient come the playoffs.

But, Granger's play since returning has lacked rhythm and efficiency. Consider his game logs in his five appearances:

Opponent Mins Rebs FG Points
@Detroit 19 2 1-10 2
Golden State 19 2 1-7 5
L.A. Clippers 19 2 5-10 12
@Toronto 10 3 3-5 8
Chicago 10 0 0-3 0

These numbers reveal how Granger hasn't regained his normal style of play. His measly field-goal percentage and diminished minutes reveal that he's slowly creeping towards his usual self.

Granger's subpar performances are mildly disappointing, because as long as he's healthy, he should eventually re-establish himself. Key phrase in that last sentence: "as long as he's healthy."

Granger has missed the Pacers' last two games after receiving an MRI on his knee, which he aggravated in their recent win against the Chicago Bulls. The MRI unveiled no new damage, but he could still miss another week.

Therefore, Granger has not only struggled to find his game, he has also struggled to find his health. This isn't a good combination.

According to ESPN, Pacers coach Frank Vogel did offer some reassuring words regarding Granger and the MRI he received,

"We're looking at it as being precautionary, understanding it's still a long season, there's still a lot of time left," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said before Indiana hosted the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night. "We want him to get back to 100 percent and this is the best way to do it. (He) did not push through when there's above average soreness.

Furthermore, it was reported that if the Pacers were in a playoff situation, Granger would have been available.

This removes some of the concerns regarding Granger's sore left knee, but it surely doesn't eliminate all the fears this presents. There's reason to worry that Granger will experience soreness throughout the next couple months and never gain fluidity this spring.

Plus, a prominent factor in all of this is timing. If Granger is going to be a core facet in the Pacers' approach come the playoffs, then they must re-integrate him into their offensive schemes soon.

He must determine his niche on this year's squad, which will look different from what his niche has been in the past. With the emergence of George, there's no need for Granger to assume the "alpha dog" responsibilities of this ball club. 

Therefore, they need time, preferably at least a few weeks, for him to carve his new-look role on the ascending Pacers. If this process is rushed because Granger misses numerous weeks and returns right before the playoffs, then Indiana will be ironing out chemistry issues in the postseason. Such a development should be avoided.

Granger can certainly turn his suspect comeback around. He has time and it all begins with health. If his body holds up and his knee is a nonissue, then his lethal scoring output should soon follow. 

Quite frankly, it wouldn't be shocking to witness Granger as his old self come April and May, when his three-pointers and midrange jumpers would be a nightmare for opponents. If this is the case, he'll become one of the major faces of the 2013 postseason.

However, it also wouldn't be shocking to see Granger sidelined continually with knee issues. Or, perhaps he's still able to contribute but only sparingly because of recurring soreness.

So, which route will it be for Granger? Right now, his return grade is a distinct disappointment. Will this grade rise as the playoffs near and soon take place?

If it does, then the Pacers don't merely become a team that can win a playoff series or two. They legitimately become a title contender with an array of weapons that can lead them to the NBA pinnacle.