Evan Turner Is No-Brainer Upgrade over Danny Granger for Indiana Pacers

Ben Leibowitz@BenLeboCorrespondent IIIFebruary 24, 2014

Feb 12, 2014; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Philadelphia 76ers small forward Evan Turner (12) dribbles up the court during the first quarter against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird swung a deal at the 2014 NBA trade deadline by swapping Danny Granger for Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen of the Philadelphia 76ers—a clear improvement for title-hungry Indy.

The Pacers have already established themselves as legitimate championship contenders with defensive tenacity and team chemistry. However, they needed to make a move to shore up their 27th ranked second unit, which scores just 25.8 points per game on average, according to Hoops Stats.

Turner can certainly provide a spark off the bench, as he’s in the midst of a career year.

In 54 games (all starts) for Philly, the versatile 25-year-old averaged a career-high 17.4 points to go with six rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. His player efficiency rating of 13.35 was admittedly lackluster but playing with a subpar supporting cast forced him to carry the load.

Now, Turner will be surrounded by a dominant supporting group in Indiana. As a result, he should be able to thrive as a complementary piece to the overall puzzle, rather than being the No. 1 or 2 option on a lottery team.


Instant Offensive Upgrade

Danny Granger established himself as an authentic NBA star with the Pacers from 2007-08 through 2010-11. During that four-season span, the New Mexico product averaged 22.5 points per game. He peaked in 2008-09 by notching 25.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.

He was a cold-blooded scorer who could be counted on to step up big in the clutch, like he did with this game-winning buzzer-beater against the Phoenix Suns.

After those four seasons, however, knee injuries started to derail Granger’s promising career. He played just five games total in 2012-13 and made 29 appearances for the Pacers this year before getting traded. In those 29, he averaged 8.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game while shooting a lowly 35.9 percent from the field.

He was a huge part of the Pacers' identity until the emergence of superstar forward Paul George—who essentially made his mentor expendable.

Although trading Granger away was a tough decision for Indy’s front office, it was the right move.

“I am excited about it,” Bird said, per Candace Buckner of The Indy Star. “I didn’t think there was going to be anything there that we were really looking for (with trades) but when this came up and caught our attention, we thought maybe we should do it.”

Bird also delved into the skills that each new acquisition brings, focusing on the positives:

Obviously, Lavoy Allen’s another big body that can play and Evan Turner—I like guys who can play multiple positions. You can talk all you want about he can’t hit an outside shot, can’t do this. I always look at the positive side of it. I think he’s a kid who can come in right away and help us.

As Bird alludes to, the biggest knock on Turner to this point in his career is outside shooting. He’s posted a 28.8 percent clip from downtown this season, but Granger wasn’t profoundly superior at 33 percent.

Turner’s ability to slash to the bucket and finish at the rim will be his greatest asset. He's shooting 48.8 percent from the field on drives, per NBA.com/Stats. That’s a better mark than James Harden (47.8 percent) and Carmelo Anthony (46 percent).


Younger, More Durable

Provided how well the Pacers have played thus far, the only factor that can derail a deep playoff run is injuries (knock on wood, Pacers fans, I don’t want to jinx anything).

With Granger as the marquee swingman on Indy’s bench, depth was a major issue. The injury-prone 30-year-old doesn’t have the same spring in his legs that he once had, which would have made losing George or Lance Stephenson a huge problem—even as a short-term loss.

With the younger, more durable Turner now solidifying the team’s second unit, Indiana has a viable option that can comfortably slide into the starting rotation if need be—perhaps even as a means of resting the starters down the stretch.

What makes Turner most valuable, though, is his versatility. If he’s having an off shooting night, he can focus his energy on crashing the glass and setting up teammates for scores.

And while Turner is a sluggish man-to-man defender, he’s still picking up one steal per contest. On top of that, the Pacers tremendous team defense should help cover his individual shortcomings.

Turner should feel rejuvenated now that he’s back on a playoff-caliber squad. That will only bring more youthful exuberance to the table for Indiana.


Summer Safety Net

While the acquisition of Turner and Allen is seen as a short-term move to bolster head coach Frank Vogel’s rotation, the long-term implications are just as important.

The task at hand for Indiana is winning the 2014 NBA championship. Nothing is going to deviate the players’ focus from that ultimate goal. Lance Stephenson, however—who arguably should have made the Eastern Conference All-Star team—is set to become a free agent at season’s end.

Dec 4, 2013; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Indiana Pacers shooting guard Lance Stephenson (1) is introduced prior to a game against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena. Indiana won 95-86. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

“Born Ready” is poised to receive a big payday this summer, but the Pacers already have more than $48.5 million invested in the core of Roy Hibbert, David West, George Hill and George for the 2014-15 season. That doesn’t provide much wiggle room in terms of re-signing Stephenson.

Stephenson’s swagger and fearlessness are a huge part of what make the Pacers so great. He does, however, play with an aggressive, reckless style that could lead to injuries down the road.

Adding Turner via trade is a means of covering the spread, because he has an $8.7 million qualifying offer for the 2014-15 season. He wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize if Stephenson received a lofty contract elsewhere, that Indy’s front office couldn’t match.

The Pacers aren’t losing anything by bringing in Turner and Allen over Granger, and it’s always good to have a Plan B if future plans don’t pan out as expected.

This doesn’t even account for Allen, who is averaging 5.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He can give Coach Vogel’s team valuable minutes off the bench by crashing the glass.

Ultimately, this trade was a no-brainer for the Pacers’ front office. They surrendered an expiring contract that likely wasn’t going to be retained anyway, as they pursue Stephenson’s next deal.

Turner and Allen can both contribute, so don’t be surprised if they swing a playoff game before it’s all said and done.

If 2012 Executive of the Year Larry Bird has proven anything as the guy pulling the strings, it’s that he knows what he’s doing. He’s put this squad in a position to win on the highest stage, now it’s simply a matter of whether they’ll execute when it matters most.


All salary information courtesy of ShamSports.


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