In the 2012-13 season, we've seen a young superstar by the name of Paul George take over the Indiana Pacers and the rest of the league by storm. He was able to do all of this because of the increased opportunity given to him, mainly due to Danny Granger's injury in the beginning of the season.
Granger, who has been the face of the franchise for the past five years, is now slowly fading away into obscurity as he watched his team reach the Eastern Conference Finals and compete with the Miami Heat for seven games before falling.
Now that George is the undisputed star on this team, what is Granger's future?
It's easy to say that Granger and his hefty $14 million contract could be traded before next season, but a healthy Granger is still an elite scorer in this league. He and George would make a deadly wing combination for next season.
In the 2011-12 campaign where Granger was healthy, George was still growing and developing his skills. At that time, George wasn't known for being anything more than a versatile defender with limited offensive abilities.
With a year of fine-tuning his offensive game, George has improved his scoring average and points per minute average this season (per Basketball Reference).
On the other hand, Granger averaged 22.2 PPG in a four-year span prior to this season. He's starting to show signs of age, and his ceiling is relatively low at this point in his career.
But he's still a capable scorer who can get hot at any given time. The damage that both these players can do on each side of the court is frightening to imagine.
Lance Stephenson is improving every day, but he wasn't expected to be thrown into a bigger role just yet. He's not the scorer that Granger is, nor the playmaker that George is. During the playoffs, Stephenson was mainly a hustle player and he only had a few good games. On offense, he was a liability.
Perimeter defense is one of the most important aspects of the game, and the Pacers seemed to be missing that during the series against the Heat. George was the only one on his team who was capable of defending LeBron James, but Granger's presence would've certainly relieved some of the burden off of the young star.
In the 2011-12 season, Granger held opposing small forwards to a PER of just 12.7 (per 82games.com). This season, George held opposing small forwards to a PER of 12.0. Both players are interchangeable on the defensive end of the floor, and having not just one, but two versatile defenders at the most important position is a luxury.
Granger's defense has been underrated his whole career because it was masked by the bad Pacers teams that used to surround him. But with other good defensive players and a great defensive system, Granger has flourished in his time under Frank Vogel.
The Pacers had one of the best starting units in the league this season, but they also had the second-lowest scoring bench in the entire league (per Hoops Stats).
In the postseason, the Pacers utilized their bench even less, and the team's lineups started to become very predictable. Keeping Granger on the team will allow the Pacers to have multiple lineup options in the future, which would be much more effective than the ones they had this season.
Granger can be placed on the floor with four other players who aren't focused on scoring, so he can have more control over the offense while George is on the bench.
If Granger is relegated to a sixth-man role next season, he can play the role of J.R. Smith or Manu Ginobili (pre-2013 postseason Ginobili, that is). When Granger and George are both on the floor together, Vogel has more versatility and can adjust to play both small-ball lineups and big lineups with George at shooting guard.