The small forward, who appeared in just five games last season and has spent most of this season injured as well, is owed just over $14 million this year. Once he hits free agency this summer, he won't be brought back. That is, if Pacers team president Larry Bird doesn't deal him first.
"I've talked to Danny, talked to his agent; I'm not looking to trade him," Bird said, per the Indianapolis Star's Bob Kravitz. "But you never know. If the right thing came along that would help the franchise, I would have to look at it, but I'm not out there looking at deals."
Actively shopping Granger is something the Pacers don't have the luxury of doing. His stock has never been lower, and they value him as both an on-court talent and expiring deal more than most other teams would.
But Bird also criticized the forward's work ethic, intimating that Granger toes the line of expendable.
"He doesn't work hard enough (in the offseason)," Bird said, via Kravitz. "He's not a guy who'll push himself to the brink like a lot of our guys do."
Ouch. Times infinity.
Granger insists that it's important for him to remain with the Pacers for the rest of this season, according to Kravitz, but if the Pacers can negotiate a trade with a team looking to dump talent for financial gain without sacrificing their own economic state, his tenure in Indiana could be up long before he hits free agency.
*All stats come courtesy of Basketball-Reference. All salary information obtained from ShamSports.com, and rounded to nearest $100,000, unless otherwise noted. Each trade adheres to NBA's CBA guidelines and were vetted by ESPN's Trade Machine whenever possible.
There's a reason Bird isn't actively looking to trade Granger. Plenty of them, actually.
First, his value has never been lower. Any interested team would deal for him solely because his contract is expiring. His on-court potential is secondary to that at this point.
That essentially means the Pacers will be hoping to capitalize off organizations looking to shed a bad contract or two if they wish to receive any immediate value in return. Under normal circumstances, greasing the wheels of negotiations with a first-round pick could enhance Granger's value, but the Pacers don't have one to trade away.
Indiana must convey a lottery-protected first-round selection to the Phoenix Suns by 2019 or it becomes unprotected in 2020, according to RealGM.com. Barring a midseason meltdown of epic proportions, Indy's 2014 first-rounder will be headed to Phoenix. But, per Larry Coon's CBA FAQ, that cannot be assumed before the pick is actually conveyed:
When dealing with protected picks, the Stepien rule is interpreted to mean that teams can't trade a pick if there is any chance it will leave the team without a first round pick in consecutive future drafts. Suppose a team makes a trade in 2011-12 that conveys a first round pick sometime from 2012 to 2017. The pick is protected only if it is the first overall pick from 2012 to 2017, and if it is not conveyed by 2017, the other team gets cash instead. In other words, in order to avoid sending a pick from 2012 to 2016, the team would have to win the first overall pick in the draft lottery five seasons in a row. Even though the likelihood of this happening is essentially nil, the team is not allowed to trade its 2018 pick.
In other words, until that first-round pick is actually sent to the Suns, the Pacers do not have an available one to trade until 2022, since you cannot trade consecutive first-round picks. The problem is. you also cannot deal those selections more than seven years in advance, eliminating that possibility entirely.
So Indy is left without that first-rounder as a buffer. The Pacers also aren't willing to go over the luxury-tax line, which, according to Coon, is $71,748,000 this season. Indiana already has $69,921,277 on its books for this year, per ShamSports.com, meaning the chances of the Pacers taking back more than $1.8 million in additional salary for this season are slim to none.
With all these immediate restrictions, possibilities aren't endless. They're limited. A trade would be much easier to strike after this season, when Indy's debt to Phoenix will (most likely) be paid. But Granger is headed toward free agency, so waiting isn't a viable option.
If the Pacers actually decide to trade him, they'll have to get extremely creative and undeniably flexible. And so, we travel onward, to the Land of Pure Imagination.
Indiana Pacers Receive: PG Jeremy Lin (two years, $16.7 million) and 2014 second-round draft pick (from Houston; via New York).
Houston Rockets Receive: SF Danny Granger (one year, $14 million), C Spencer Hawes (one year, $6.6 million) and 2020 first-round draft pick (from Philly).
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: C Omer Asik (two years, $16.7 million) and SF Chris Copeland (three years, $10 million; qualifying offer of $3.9 million in 2015-16).
Why Indiana Does It: Lin is owed a boatload of mula in 2014-15 ($15 million-ish), but his cap hit is roughly $8.4 million, a more-than-serviceable number for a moderately talented floor general.
The Pacers, as is, don't have a legitimate point guard and tend to rely on Paul George, George Hill and Lance Stephenson for a majority of their playmaking needs, all of whom are in the starting lineup. Lin gives them a viable point man off the pine who just might be the extra depth they need to be pushed over the top.
Why Houston Does It: According to CBS Sports' Ken Berger, the Rockets were open to packaging Lin with Asik but couldn't find any takers. Though Houston has taken Asik off the table after failing to trade him before Dec. 19, chances are general manager Daryl Morey would move him and Lin in a heartbeat if he could see this kind of return.
Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski previously indicated that Philly was interested in Asik, and the framework of such a deal would've inevitably looked something like this. Hawes gives the Rockets another long-distance shooter but is also a seven-footer who can see minutes behind Dwight Howard.
When healthy, Granger could be used as a spot-up stretch 4 as well. He, along with Hawes, also comes off the books this summer, just in time for Houston to have some serious flexibility as it prepares to extend Chandler Parsons and bring in some outside help.
Why Philadelphia Does It: If the Sixers actually wanted Asik before, this is a deal worth exploring.
Asik gives them a defensive-savvy center for the rest of the season before presenting them with some interesting rotation options once Nerlens Noel is healthy next year. Copeland also fits into their financial future as an instant scorer on the cheap who helps render Evan Turner or Thaddeus Young expendable this season or next.
That 2020 first-round pick seems a bit steep, but some kind of protection would likely be attached to it. Prying Asik from the Rockets is also going to take a first-rounder, and the Sixers have various commitments running through 2018. So while it is a high price, it's one they would have to pay for Asik.
Indiana Pacers Receive: SG Jason Richardson (two years, $12.8 million) and SF Evan Turner (two years, $15.2 million; second year is a qualifying offer).
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: SF Danny Granger (one year, $14 million) and 2014 second-round draft pick.
Why Indiana Does It: Turner could wind up being a rental.
The swingman is set to hit restricted agency this summer and could command more than the $8.7 million annually he's owed next season.
But the Pacers are making an instant push, trying to dethrone the Miami Heat. They could bring Turner off the bench as a younger, healthier version of Granger, strengthening their bench and title chances to boot. Turner also gives them an alternative to Stephenson if the Pacers see him as being a better fit this summer.
This would demand that they take back Richardson's deal, though. He's essentially worthless to them, but his contract only runs through next season. If they're going to land Turner without relinquishing a first-round pick, it's a necessary price to pay.
Why Philadelphia Does It: Trust me, I'm not trying to take advantage of a team purposely trying to taste toilet water.
Bleacher Report's Jared Zwerling says the Sixers may not be willing to meet Turner's contract demands this summer, and if that's the case, capitalizing off his inevitable departure by moving Richardson is a smart move.
Ideally, general manager Sam Hinkie would secure a first-rounder from a team with one to give. Closer to the deadline, that may be an option. But Philly doesn't have much leverage in Turner's negotiations, since interested teams know he can leave.
The Sixers could be amenable to just letting him walk, but again, if it meant bidding farewell to Richardson a year early, wouldn't they at least have to consider this?
And, you know, the tanking thing, too.
Indiana Pacers Receive: PF Jason Thompson (four years, $25.9 million) and SG Marcus Thornton (two years, $16.6 million)
Sacramento Kings Receive: SF Danny Granger (one year, $14 million)
Why Indiana Does It: For glory.
All right, not quite. This, once again, is about deepening the Pacers' roster.
Combined, Thompson and Thornton earn less than Granger this season. They stand to be more productive than Granger ever could and, together, add both size and scoring to an already talented rotation.
Thompson can see minutes behind Roy Hibbert instead of Ian Mahinmi, and Thornton is the bench scorer Granger should've been but, at this point, will never be. He's also a solid consolation prize if Indy cannot pony up enough cash to re-sign Stephenson this summer.
Biggest issue here would be the additional salary in ensuing years. This deal would look a lot more appealing if the Pacers could, in turn, find a home for Mahinmi.
Why Sacramento Does It: Money.
Thornton is no longer a starter, and in the aftermath of Rudy Gay's arrival, ESPN's Marc Stein reported the Kings would love to move Thompson.
Last thing Sactown needs at this point is another wingman, but if healthy, Granger gives the Kings an abundance of floor-spacing forward options, with Gay and Derrick Williams already in tow. The Kings won't be contending for a championship this season, so experimenting with an unconventional roster makes for great tanking in an uber-deep Western Conference.
Shipping out Thompson and Thornton for Granger's expiring pact also saves the Kings an estimated $14.5-plus million next season. That could be more than enough to convince them this is a trigger worth pulling.
Indiana Pacers Receive: SF Landry Fields (two years, $12.5 million), PG Kyle Lowry (one year, $6.2 million) and PF Steve Novak (three years, $10.9 million).
Toronto Raptors Receive: SF Chris Copeland (three years, $10 million; qualifying offer of $3.9 million in 2015-16), SF Danny Granger (one year $14 million) and 2014 second-round draft pick.
Why Indiana Does It: Adding an actual point guard not named C.J. Watson would be a spectacular move by the Pacers. Lowry can come off the bench behind Hill or start in place of him. Either way, Indy is given a floor general with a substantially higher ceiling.
Fields and Novak aren't ideal acquisitions, but they're necessary. Taking them on compels Toronto to make this deal without the inclusion of a first-round pick (which the Pacers don't have).
Novak is one of the purest shooters in the game and doesn't normally need ample time to find his rhythm. Fields can be both a valuable defender and threat in transition. Together, they add depth, something the Pacers still need.
Why Toronto Does It: This isn't what general manager Masai Ujiri had in mind.
Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski previously noted the Raptors wanted a first-round selection in return for Lowry, but few teams are willing to pay that kind of price for a mediocre floor general who can walk after this season. The next best thing would be ridding Toronto's books of some less favorable pacts.
Copeland is more affordable than both Novak and Fields and gives Ujiri an asset come offseason, when trade negotiations heat up again. Granger, if he makes a contribution, is a far more efficient player than Gay was, and his deal comes off the ledger this summer. Netting a second-round selection in this upcoming draft is hardly something to scoff at, either.
Did I mention the Raptors are clearly tanking, too? That's hard to do in an unsightly Eastern Conference. Granger still has potential, but he won't suddenly return to All-Star form. Accepting him in favor of Lowry, who stands to have more of a positive impact, increases the value of Toronto's draft picks this June.
Indiana Pacers Receive: PF Brandon Bass (two years, $13.4 million) and SG Courtney Lee (three years, $16.4 million).
Boston Celtics Receive: SF Danny Granger (one year, $14 million) and 2014 second-round draft pick.
Why Indiana Does It: I've always felt Lee would be a perfect fit for Indiana's system, because of how talented he is defensively and his ability to stretch the floor when he's on. He's been used sparingly in Boston but been productive at times. Bringing him in adds some defensive flavor off the bench while also presenting a solid backup plan if Stephenson prices himself out of the team's range this summer.
Bass deepens the Pacers bench considerably as well. His ability to knock down mid-range jumpers and hit the glass hard makes him an ideal backup for David West. With him and Luis Scola on the roster, Mahinmi, who has been atrocious in short spurts this season, won't need to see as much playing time.
Both Bass and Lee are on reasonable contracts (yes, even Lee) and add much-needed depth to a Pacers bench that still ranks 29th in scoring without breaking the bank.
Why Boston Does It: Salary. Dump.
Boston takes on more immediate salary in this one, but as Zwerling previoulsy reported, Bass and Lee are up for grabs. Granger's deal comes off the books after this year, saving the Celtics more than $12 million in 2014-15.
Unless Granger returns to 2011-12 form, the Celtics are markedly worse after this trade. But it shouldn't be about getting better. While the Celtics currently top the Atlantic Division, they're still a middling team at best. And the worst place to be in today's NBA is the middle.
With Granger, they either remain competitive while saving money, or set the stage to actually tank while saving money. That second-round pick is also valuable in an upcoming draft loaded with talent, making this a proposal general manager Danny Ainge would have to consider.
Or at least not giggle at.