Things are looking pretty good for the Indiana Pacers right now.
The Pacers are beating up on the Atlanta Hawks, they’ve (arguably) looked like one of the top four teams in the playoffs and Paul George has been a destructive force on both ends of the ball. Pretty good, indeed.
However, one issue still looms large for Indiana—the Danny Granger situation. The Pacers swingman recently underwent knee surgery (after playing just five games this season), and questions are being raised about his future with the team. Will the Pacers' performance in the playoffs determine Granger's future?
Let’s just stop right there and answer that question. "No."
Whether the Pacers blow this series against the Hawks or they crush all comers en route to an NBA Finals victory—it has no bearing on Granger's place with the team. His future will be decided next season, not this one.
Granger's trade value is based around his $14 million expiring contract (per HoopsHype), which means it won't degrade from this summer to next year's trade deadline. It would be crazy to move him before seeing if he's healthy.
It certainly sounds like the Pacers' front office understands that. Earlier in the year, Hoopsworld's Alex Kennedy tweeted this:
Alex Kennedy @AlexKennedyNBA
The Pacers no longer consider Danny Granger untouchable, according to rival executives. Granger could be moved: http://t.co/AGv7qxfWgz2013-2-20 22:17:12
This originally sounded pretty bad until Kevin Pritchard, one of the men behind the Pacers' personnel decisions, immediately fired back with this:
Kevin Pritchard @PacersKev
@AlexKennedyNBA That executive would be wrong!!!2013-2-20 23:44:15
That could all be smoke and mirrors though, so let's just say it right now: If Granger is at his best, he would mean far more to the Pacers than whatever second-rate package a rebuilding team could put together for him. And if he's not, then they can just flip him at the deadline. There's no risk involved.
Indiana is a defensive squad that struggles to score against elite teams. If they make a run this year, it will be despite their offense, and if they don't, it will be because of it. A healthy Granger would improve that offense—and maybe even the defense—significantly. They can't give a chance like that up.
Granger would basically give the Pacers the outside scoring threat they've been missing all season. Look at this shot chart of the Pacers (via NBA.com).
Those are some pretty rough percentages, especially from deep. The NBA has become a slash-and-kick league in which teams almost have to hit threes to prevent opponents from packing the paint. This Pacers team can't consistently do that. You know who can? Yeah. Danny Granger. Check out his shot chart from last season (via NBA.com)
Last season, the Pacers ranked seventh in offense (per Basketball-Reference) and could be even better next year if everyone's healthy. George is more than capable of running the show for the Pacers, which means that Granger can focus less on stuff he's not so good at (isolations) and more on coming off of screens and spotting up.
Granger's three-point shooting also makes him perfect for the Pacers' decoy entry passes. Teams have made it difficult this season for Indiana to get Roy Hibbert and David West touches down low, and having someone like Granger would help out tremendously on that front (assuming the Pacers re-sign West).
It's fairly effective now with George (as you can see below), but it'd be even better if Indiana could run some trickery with a shooter like Granger.
Granger might not be a great defender, but he's solid, and the Pacers would be running a lineup of four guys 6'8” or over (!!) with him out there. Big defensive jumps from Hibbert and George have made the Indiana defense scary this season—just imagine it with Granger helping gum up the works.
Now, there are some anti-Granger arguments, most of which go something like “We have Paul George, and he's better, so we don't need Granger.” That argument is ridiculous because:
- Multiple perimeter guys can play at the same time (what a revelation!).
- Granger and George were fantastic together last season.
In 2011-12, Granger and George were a net plus-10 points per 100 possessions and a whopping plus-279 when they were on the court together. That's the best plus/minus of any pair not from the Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami Heat or Los Angeles Clippers (per NBA.com).
It's fair for fans to be hesitant about moving George back to the 2, but George is already one of the more intelligent players in the league, and his new-found ability to run the Pacers' offense would make the transition easy.
Grantland's Zach Lowe recently did a breakdown of George, in which he wrote:
A national audience got to see George's maturity in full bloom on Sunday. He attacked judiciously, even against an overmatched defender in Kyle Korver, catching the ball on the move for quick-hitting pick-and-rolls and going one-on-one only when the defense wasn't quite prepared for it. He shot when he should have and passed when he should have.
Does that really sound like a guy who wouldn't be able to handle moving back to the position he played almost all of last year? No. George is more than capable of putting himself in positions to succeed.
Additionally, when you consider that Lance Stephenson could add some punch to the bench (which was the third-lowest scoring bench in the league per Hoopsstats.com)...adding Granger to the team sounds like nothing but a huge plus, no matter what Indiana accomplishes (or doesn't accomplish) in the postseason.
Of course, everything you just read is the best-case scenario for the Pacers. Maybe Granger doesn't look good in his time back, and they have to flip him. Or maybe he looks good, and they decide they'd rather get something for him rather than taking their chance in the playoffs and then hoping he signs a hometown discount. Who knows?
What's clear is that Granger's future with the Pacers will not—or at the very least should not—be decided by this postseason. He could be a big addition, and the Pacers need to see what he has to offer before next season's deadline. He deserves that much.