Danny Granger Wouldn't Put LA Clippers over the Top, but He'd Help

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistFebruary 27, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS - JANUARY 18: Danny Granger #33 of the Indiana Pacers shoots against the Los Angeles Clippers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on January 18, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: 2014 NBAE  (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)
Ron Hoskins/Getty Images

Danny Granger won't swing the NBA title race in the Los Angeles Clippers' favor. 

Then again, he's not supposed to. Buyout markets aren't supposed to swing the NBA title race.

Players that clear waivers following the league's trade deadline are supposed to represent afterthoughts as residual dregs of previous trades, or unwanted or disgruntled excess from a crowded roster. Dormant trade deadlines, however, have rendered said pool of rejected or unhappy talent something of a consolation prize as a chance to shore up progressive standings.

One of the most active buyers during this uncharacteristically busy period has been the Clippers, who have already added Glen "Big Baby" Davis to the docket and are now attempting to woo Granger, according to ESPN's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne:

The Los Angeles Clippers met with the representatives of swingman Danny Granger during Wednesday night's game against the Houston Rockets and have nudged ahead of the San Antonio Spurs in the race for Granger's services, according to sources close to the process.

The Clippers are widely regarded as the team best positioned to provide Granger the playing time and the championship contention he craves.

And they've stepped up their pursuit of the former All-Star, sources told ESPN.com, at least partly due to growing concern within the organization about the status of guard J.J. Redick, who has missed the past nine games and is out indefinitely with a back injury.

Granger, a two-time All-Star, makes sense for the surging and injured Clippers. But sensible additions don't put you over the top.


What Granger Brings

INDIANAPOLIS - FEBRUARY 10: Danny Granger #33 of the Indiana Pacers shares a moment with the ref against the Denver Nuggets at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on February 10, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees tha
Ron Hoskins/Getty Images

At this stage, Granger is more of a necessity than he is insurance or added depth. J.J. Redick's status moving forward remains uncertain, and his absence has been compounded by Jamal Crawford's exit in a victory over the Houston Rockets.

Both Crawford and Redick are guards, so Granger, a forward, may not be the ideal replacement. But both are also a big part of Los Angeles' top-three offense when healthy. While Granger has appeared in just 34 games since 2011-12, he's not far removed from leading the Indiana Pacers in scoring during the pre-superstar Paul George era.

In Los Angeles, his floor spacing becomes especially valuable for a team that ranks 23rd in three-point percentage and has just four everyday players drilling more than 35 percent of their treys, two of whom (Crawford and Redick) are battling injuries.

Though Granger is converting just 33 percent of his long balls this season, he's a lifetime 38.2 percent gunner from beyond the arc. He was also logging only 22.5 minutes per game in Indiana, where he was transitioning from his previous role of a starter to that of a sixth man.

More playing time could be just what Granger needs to regain his offensive touch, especially in a contract year. And the Clippers have minutes available, courtesy of injuries and Jared Dudley's poor play. Realistically, Granger could find himself seeing starter-level minutes as an actual starter or key reserve.

The difference in offensive culture also has to be considered. The Pacers don't run a consistently effective attack. Theirs is an offense without a top-flight floor general, prone to long stretches of stagnancy and clock-draining sets. The Clippers are the exact opposite.

Chris Paul leads a potent and organized assault, one in which Granger won't be tasked with creating for himself as much. Toss in Blake Griffin's improved passing sense out of double-teams, and Granger could develop into one of Los Angeles' more deadly spot-up shooters, a role he's better suited for now than that of a self-sufficient scorer.

The last time Granger was a healthy everyday player, in fact, he proved to be a lethal standalone net-finder, knocking down 37.3 percent of his three-pointers in those situations, according to Synergy Sports (subscription required). This season, for what it's worth, the Clippers are only hitting 35.1 percent of their spot-up bombs.

Within an offensive system run by the NBA's best point guard, it's not unreasonable to expect Granger to thrive as a third or fourth scoring option who doesn't need to put the ball on the floor often.

Defensively, Granger also stands to be an upgrade over Dudley, Crawford, Redick and perhaps even Barnes at this point. His career defensive rating is 106, but he's never been considered terrible.

Clippers Perimeter Defense
PlayerDef. Rtg. WithDef. Rtg. Without
Matt Barnes106.9100.1
Jamal Crawford102.3102.9
Jared Dudley102.2102.9
J.J. Redick103.8102.0
Via NBA.com.

This season alone, he proved he could be a plus-defender on the league's best defensive team. The Pacers, per NBA.com (subscription required), were allowing 5.1 fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, and according to 82games.com, opposing small forwards notched a player efficiency rating of nine against him, well below the league average of 15. 

That's something the Clippers, who rank 11th in defensive efficiency, can work with. Granger's legs aren't what they used to be, but again, in another above-average system, he should fare just fine.

So while it remains ridiculous to count on All-Star caliber contributions from the declining Granger, he can help the Clippers. A lot.


Maintaining the Status Quo

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 26: (L-R) Chris Paul #3, DeAndre Jordan #6, and Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers stand together during the performance of the National Anthem before facing the Houston Rockets at Staples Center on February 26, 2014
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

All good things considered, Granger still isn't going to shape Los Angeles into more of a contender than it already is. That's not an insult, either.

The Clippers are already dangerous. Recent victories over the Oklahoma City Thunder and Rockets were proof of just that. In theory, adding Granger should only make them more dangerous, and in a way, he does.

Granger would be a great pickup, but doesn't make the Clippers that much more dangerous.
Granger would be a great pickup, but doesn't make the Clippers that much more dangerous.Fernando Medina/Getty Images

But more than anything, competent depth has become a necessity. Granger wouldn't be joining a healthy Clippers team free of concern. They have injury issues that have been complicated by their second unit's season-long struggles. Granger becomes someone who helps the Clippers sustain their current level of play, which, if we're being honest, is pleasantly surprising given all they've been through.

"Of course!" head coach Doc Rivers said when asked if he wanted Granger in Los Angeles, via ESPN Los Angeles' Arash Markazi. "A guy with that talent you want to look at."

Of course the Clippers are interested. They need what he could potentially bring. Not want, in the sense he makes them something they're currently not, but need, in order to stay the course.

If anyone is going to put the Clippers over the top, it will be Paul or Griffin, or even Defensive Player of the Year candidate DeAndre Jordan. They've been Los Angeles' lifelines all season, and that's not going to change down the stretch, especially with regard to a player linked with so many "ifs."

Appreciate the Clippers, then, for what they are: contenders. Title threats. A great and repeatedly resilient basketball team. 

Welcome Granger's potential arrival for what it could be, too: Necessary depth for a struggling supporting cast, not an assured luxury promising to improve the status of an already elite basketball team.


*Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference, NBA.com (subscription required), Synergy Sports (subscription required) and 82games.com.


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