How Danny Granger Can Be Paul George's Star Sidekick with the Indiana Pacers
With George's breakout campaign last season and Granger being 30 years old, the latter stepping aside to take on more of a supporting role is inevitable.
Take it from what Granger told Fox Sports' Bill Reiter in February:
So I'm about to have a mid-life crisis. So I'm 30, you know, I have no problem—I've been in the league eight years—I have no problem passing the mantle to him (George), to leave the team to Roy (Hibbert) and George.
The two have more than just a mentor-student relationship. Their rapport is almost like that of two brothers, which George alluded to in the above-linked article.
A simple review of their on-court chemistry should give Pacers fans an idea of what's to come this season.
Granger and George in 2011-12
Paul George and Danny Granger's major impact as a duo for the Indiana Pacers was first put to the test in 2011-12. This was George's sophomore year when coach Frank Vogel named him the team's starter at shooting guard.
Granger took his usual spot as the team's starting small forward.
While George did make some progress from his rookie year, he was still timid and gun-shy on the offensive end. He definitely showed potential, but he could have been better.
Conrad Brunner of Pacers.com put it best when he said,"George tantalized the Pacers with his ability but tortured them with his inconsistency."
On Granger's part, he had his lowest scoring output in five seasons despite an 18.7 points-per-game average. Still, as evidenced by the above video where Granger lobs it to George for the easy slam, the two had good chemistry in 2011-12. They had a chance to improve that further the following season.
Alas, Granger's jumper's knee injury in 2012 (which forced him to sit out all but five games) would change everything.
Scenario 1: Granger Starts in 2013-14
According to Dan Feldman of Pro Basketball Talk, Granger said he expects to be a starter this season upon his return.
The best-case scenario here is for George to help maximize Granger's strengths and minimize his weaknesses knowing they'll be given major minutes. For example, take Granger's subpar shot selection. For his career, he's shooting just 43.7 percent from the field.
Looking at Granger's shot chart above from the 2011-12 regular season, he had a rough go of it from just inside the three-point area at right quarter-court, where he shot a paltry 26.32 percent. Needless to say, Granger has to take it upon himself to improve his production from this area.
But how can George help Granger improve this aspect of his game? With George's assists total rising to a career-high 4.1 in 2012-13, he should be aware that the best areas to dish off to Granger are almost anywhere within 10-15 feet of the basket and the top of the three-point area.
Granger is also a mediocre passer (averaging just two assists for his career). George moves well without the ball, so he can capitalize on this aspect to help his mentor improve his passing skills.
Scenario 2: Granger Comes Off the Bench
The good news: Coach Frank Vogel told Scott Agness of Pacers.com that Granger is "on schedule" and "making progress."
The not-so-good news: Vogel said the team is "hoping" to have Granger at full strength in 2013-14, per Agness.
In short, Vogel hasn't clearly stated if Granger will be the starter at small forward. It seems there's still a possibility he will come off the bench, depending on how fast he regains his health and form.
Since new acquisition Chris Copeland can play both the small forward and power forward, he will be splitting minutes with Granger as one of George's chief relievers in this scenario.
The above chart from Tim Donahue of EightPointsNineSeconds.com shows an interesting fact: George's productivity dipped by 3.11 points with Granger seated on the bench in the 2011-12 season (represented by the red bar on the leftmost side of the chart).
This is a trend which we hope will not continue in the upcoming season.
The Final Say
Regardless of whether Danny Granger will start or come off the bench, count on Paul George's versatile style of play to complement Granger's game nicely moving forward.
Should Danny Granger start or come off the bench for the Indiana Pacers?
George himself confirmed that he and Granger should mesh pretty well, per Hoopsworld.com: "Even my second year in the league and my rookie year, we were still able to play off one another. I didn't have as big of a role as I do now, but we still did a good job playing off one another."
He added: "We're positioned really well. The only thing we really needed was the experience, and with everyone coming back together again, there's no doubt in my mind that we should win a championship."
We're looking forward to that much-awaited moment, Paul.
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