Was trading Danny Granger a mistake by the Indiana Pacers?
Since Granger first took the floor for the Clippers on March 4, Los Angeles has gone 10-2 (.818) and is 51-22 (.699) overall through March 29.
Meanwhile, Indiana has struggled.
As of March 29, the Pacers are 10-8 (.556) since Evan Turner, one of the players Granger was traded for, moved to Indiana.
In spite of Indy's 52-21 (.712) Eastern Conference-leading record, the team hasn't looked like a title contender lately.
Its once menacing defense has become porous and its struggles on offense continue. Turnovers have also become an issue.
This is definitely not the recipe to stave off the Miami Heat for the No. 1 seed in the East.
Certainly, there are also other factors in the Pacers' recent slide (most notably Paul George's shooting woes). With this, putting the blame solely on Turner is not the issue.
However, probing deeper into the Granger deal ought to serve as a wake-up call for the Pacers—if they could be as lethal as they were prior to having Turner on board, the whole league better watch out.
The Pacers Before Trading Danny Granger
Indiana was a defensive juggernaut prior to the All-Star Break and before trading Granger, as it allowed just 90.3 points while scoring an average of 98.5 points per game, per HoopsStats.com.
That's an average point differential of 8.2 points—a factor which propelled Indy to a 40-12 mark before the All-Star break.
During Granger's last two months in Pacers blue and gold, he averaged around 8.5 points on 36 percent shooting. He was clearly not the Granger of old—he struggled with his jump shots and found it difficult to create off the dribble.
While Granger proved he can contribute off the bench, the effects of his long layoff clearly showed.
The Pacers' shock troopers back then lacked firepower in spite of having the likes of C.J. Watson and Luis Scola on board. A Granger who was at less than full strength didn't help matters.
This was an Indiana team that was poised to win 70 games—the kind of team fans are confident of winning on any given night.
Unfortunately, things wouldn't be the same after Granger left town.
The Pacers After Trading Danny Granger
HoopsStats.com (through 3/27/14)
Turner got off to a good start, averaging 11 points in his first four games with the Pacers—all of them victories.
Since then, he has been maddeningly inconsistent.
His point production in the last 10 games through March 28, per ESPN.com: two, nine, two, 20, four, three, six, eight, three and eight.
Bird reiterated the bench is one of the factors that will take the Pacers to the next level. Turner's inconsistent play won't help matters at all.
It's a good thing he delivered in crunch time against the Heat on March 26.
Evan Turner played 21 minutes in last night’s win, but his play in the final few was most critical. Full story: http://t.co/27HRKAdiAg— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) March 27, 2014
While Turner's talent cannot be questioned, Indy just hasn't been the same since he came on board.
The defensive swagger which the Pacers had during the season's first half has disappeared. Indiana is no longer the team that allowed just barely 90 points per game.
Instead, they have the look of a lower-seeded playoff team, which has struggled to be consistent on both ends of the floor.
Referring to the above table from HoopsStats.com, the Pacers have been allowing an average of 95.8 points per game after the All-Star break, a 19-game stretch (two of those games were with Granger still on board).
Turnovers have also been an issue.
As of March 27, Indy is 21st in the league, with an average of 14.5 turnovers per contest.
In short, the current crop of Pacers are an inconsistent bunch whose defense and turnover numbers need to improve in spite of the team's No. 1 standing in the East.
The Parting Shot
We have witnessed the Pacers' regression firsthand since the Granger trade.
To put things in better perspective, was this slide due to Indy missing Granger or the team adding Turner?
It turns out there's more to it than just these.
The Pacers were a better team with Granger on board during the season's first half.
However, a combination of different factors led the Pacers to think about their long-term future.
Indy did very well last season when he missed 77 games due to a jumper's knee injury, just coming up one game short of the NBA Finals. With the starting nucleus intact, the team is still deadly.
It was an indication that Granger's days with the Pacers were already numbered.
The team could have used him to shore up its weak bench, but he was a shadow of the player he once was and was also on the last year of his deal with Indiana.
Was trading Danny Granger a mistake?
Other intangibles also have to be considered, such as soon-to-be free agent Lance Stephenson. Getting Turner would be insurance just in case Stephenson bolts for another team.
For now, don't put the blame solely on Turner for the Pacers' woes.
Turnovers, mediocre defense, woeful shooting from George, Roy Hibbert's inconsistency on offense and rebounding as well as injuries (Watson and Andrew Bynum) have all played a part.
With these, Pacers.com's Mark Montieth offered his take on Turner in his March 10 article:
The key acquisition in the deal that discarded Danny Granger, Turner remains an uncertainty in the minds of most Pacers fans.
Turner is younger, healthier and a better shot creator than Granger, so the potential remains for that trade to be a major coup. Time will tell.
To conclude matters, Montieth is right. Only time will tell if Indiana made a mistake in trading Danny Granger.
Winning cures everything. If the Indiana Pacers manage to win the NBA title, then trading Danny Granger would have been well worth it.