The Indiana Pacers were so close to reaching the NBA Finals without Danny Granger this postseason; the team would be best served getting something for the suddenly injury-prone 30-year-old while they can.
Granger is heading into the final season of his five-year, $60 million contract. He's owed $14 million in the final year of his deal. Instead of moving Granger to add assets or draft picks, ESPN's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne are reporting that sources indicate the Pacers are leaning toward keeping Granger for next season.
Obviously, the Pacers are looking at Granger's 18.1 point-per-game average over his career. Considering Indiana pushed the Heat to the brink in the Eastern Conference Finals, theoretically, Granger's scoring punch could be seen as the missing link to beat the Heat.
That would make sense if Granger could be counted on to remain healthy next season. Because of a problematic knee, his days as a potent scorer could be over. Granger missed all but five games this past season, and he missed 20 games during the 2011-12 season.
Without the man that led the team in scoring for five straight seasons, the Pacers rode the coat tails of budding superstar Paul George, much-improved big man Roy Hibbert and point guard George Hill to one of the best postseasons in franchise history.
Lance Stephenson was a bit out of control at times, but his energy, athleticism and improving offensive game should be enough to make the Pacers feel comfortable with their 2-guard situation sans Granger.
Do the Pacers need Danny Granger to beat the Heat?
The Pacers would be wise to look for a deal that brings them a combination of short-term contracts (preferably one-year remaining) that equal Granger's 2013-14 salary. However, the Pacers don't have to make all of the contracts match perfectly.
Indiana is one of the few teams in the league not in trouble with the salary cap.
Per HoopsHype.com, the Pacers have $48.9 million tied up in salary going into the 2013-14 season with only David West's pending free agency as an issue.
For the right deal, Indiana could even absorb a contract, if it were the right fit for the team. Keeping Granger would be wasting an opportunity to add assets without losing anything from the team that was one game away from the finals.
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