With the trading deadline just a week away, the Indiana Pacers are poised for a major acquisition. They are about to add a former All-Star and proven NBA scorer, a seven-year veteran, in his prime (age 29), who has averaged 21.6 points and shot 39 percent from 3-point range over the past five seasons. Oh, and they won’t be giving up a thing fo him – not a rotation player, not a scrub, not a draft pick, not a potted plant.
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
His name is Danny Granger.
Oh, you might be thinking. So there are some asterisks attached after all.
That is the concern, anyway, among the half-empty folks who have questions as Granger returns to action for Indiana after missing everything to this point left knee injury.
There are questions, naturally, about the level of Granger’s fitness as he hurries to play catch-up this season, about the durability of his bum knee and the amount of rust he’ll tote onto the court with him. Some people are bogged down in the micro stuff, as in “Will he play Wednesday night to make good on the Pacers’ desire to use him a little before the All-Star break? Or will they hold off after all, buying him and them another week before the Knicks visit Indianapolis on Feb. 20?”
Others opt for the macro worries, along these lines: Granger exited, when his layoff began in the fall, as Indiana’s leading scorer and primary shot-taker and maker. He has averaged 16.6 field-goal attempts since 2007-08 and he is used to being the Pacers’ “big dog.” Only now, there’s a new dog in the yard.
Paul George is Indiana’s All-Star rep this weekend and has blown up in his third season. The Scottie Pippen comparisons are starting to look more legit than silly at this point. He has 15 double-doubles and the team is 13-6 when he leads it in scoring. Oh, and George just happens to play Granger’s position.
George shifting to small forward in his injured mate’s absence has been a good thing, too, for Lance Stephenson, a strong shooting guard with raw but considerable skills (averaging 13.4 points on 50 percent shooting the past eight games). So the fear is that Granger’s return – at least than 100 percent initially, certainly – will disrupt the overall pecking order, shift George into the backcourt for some unforeseeable change in performance and stick Stephenson back in the cupboard.
That’s your half-empty perspective, anyway.
The half-full outlook is that the Pacers will instantly get deeper, and bench play has been a problem at times. They will add, in Granger, a shooter with range who can help open lanes and unclog the middle – which can only help power forward David West (who doesn’t need much help) and center Roy Hibbert (who most certainly does). They will add a veteran presence in the locker room and on the floor, not just another guy in a suit. And Stephenson has shown enough to help off the bench as a rotation guy, rather than the project he had been.
And let’s be honest, this is Danny Granger, not Carmelo Anthony – he doesn’t bring nearly the ego that would necessarily disrupt a team and, this being Indy vs. Manhattan, there’d be less wailing all around anyway. Granger could even be shifted to the bench.
So whether it happens tonight against Charlotte or next week against New York – really a small detail – Indiana is going to be better off, not worse, both short term and long.