The Indiana Pacers are arguably the most well-rounded team throughout the NBA. Paul George, a rising superstar, is averaging 25.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in leading Indiana to a 3-0 start. Lance Stephenson, who was very hit-or-miss last season, is averaging 19.0 points and 6.7 rebounds per game as well.
So what will the Pacers do with Danny Granger once (if) he returns from injury in just a couple of weeks? Does he start, or does he come off the bench while Stephenson assumes the starting role?
While I don't know exactly what head coach Frank Vogel is planning to do with Granger, I can tell you what he should do—he should have Granger coming off of the bench.
Fans who want Granger to return are getting too caught up in his 18.7 points per game during the 2011-12 season. That was pre-knee surgery Granger. This Granger hasn't played a meaningful basketball game in 246 days, and that was just his fifth game back in action last season.
Prior to Granger's February 23rd debut for the Pacers last season, it had been nine months since Granger saw meaningful minutes in action.
In Granger's absence? Stephenson has thrived, vindicating president Larry Bird's selection of Stephenson in the 2012 NBA Draft. It's an improvement and contribution that Pacers Director of Media Relations David Benner pointed out on Twitter.
And though inconsistent most of last season, Lance provided an added spark whenever Indiana needed it. One example is Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the New York Knicks. At home and trying to close out the series, Stephenson provided 25 points and 10 rebounds in a win vs. New York, utterly dominating the entire game. Game 6 was Lance Stephenson's game.
My worry with Granger coming back is the effect he may have on the chemistry of this team. According to NBA.com, This starting five of George Hill, Stephenson, George, David West and Roy Hibbert played more minutes together as a starting five last season than any other team in the league, taking the court together 19 minutes per game. This starting five had the third-best points differential in the league while on the floor as one unit.
I understand that Granger is a veteran, and when he's on track, he's a lights-out shooter. But this chemistry this starting five has built together—one that pushed the two-time defending champion Miami Heat to the brink of elimination in the Eastern Conference Finals—is one that shouldn't be switched up.
This team has grown together. Throwing Granger into the lineup and Stephenson to the bench, though something Lance says he was looking forward to, is the kind of move that can kill a team's chemistry.
Please, Frank Vogel—if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
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