While a great deal of credit fell on the shoulders of Paul George in the Indiana Pacers’ improbable run at a berth in the 2013 NBA playoffs, there might be even better news on the horizon for Frank Vogel’s squad next season, and it can be summed up in two words: Danny Granger.
The 30-year-old sat out all but five games in the 2012-13 season but should be back at full strength at the start of the season after suffering a knee injury. Granger will be an added veteran boost to a young team that won 49 games.
“He looks good. He feels good. I think he started with Shaun (Windle) inside with the weights and some of the conditioning, full out running, I think he is limited at this point just because everybody wants it to heal the right way, but it looks like it’s good,” said Pacers President of Basketball Operations Donnie Walsh, during Thursday's season-ending press conference, via Fox59.com, about Granger’s left knee.
While George did a more than admirable job filling in for Granger, Vogel will get perhaps the best sixth man in the NBA when he has Granger at full strength. Vogel can still use Granger and George on the court at the same time, with Granger perhaps taking on more of a power forward role, and George used a little more as a swing man.
Granger has a reputation for being an unselfish player, and his recovery from knee surgery will likely mean he will not play more than 30 minutes a game. Vogel can use the former All-Star as a catalyst in certain situations and provide him with a similar playing schedule as Grant Hill in his final season with the Orlando Magic.
The Eastern Conference might be tougher next season with Derrick Rose back at full strength with the Chicago Bulls, and LeBron James still hungry to win another title in Miami. If the Pacers want to stay in the hunt, they may need an extra injection of scoring from a new source, and Granger appears to be the best candidate.
Granger has a career scoring average of 18.1 points per game and is a solid defender. Though George has emerged as the team’s best player, it would be misguided to overlook the production that Granger can bring. He is a versatile perimeter scorer, and his bulky frame could help the Pacers in the paint.
It won’t be easy to return to the Eastern Conference finals, considering the competition. The Pacers are likely to be contenders to reach the NBA Finals next season but will only go as far as a player like Granger can take them.
Should Vogel and his coaching staff find good use for the athletic forward, an NBA title is not out of the question.