#33 / Forward / Indiana Pacers
Apr 20, 1983
How did Danny Granger impress?
Danny Granger did many things to impress last season. From the very beginning there was no doubt Granger was laying it all on the line whenever he played. The front teeth he turned to powder in the home opener against the Boston Celtics and the fact that he returned to the game after destroying his smile was indicative of the type of effort 33 would display throughout the season.
Obviously Granger's offensive exploits were incredible as he scored over 25 points per game which marked the third straight season that he increased his scoring average by at least five points per game. With Mike Dunleavy down for most of the season, Granger was THE offensive option and the focal point of any opponent's defensive scheme, yet many nights he made scoring 30 points look down right effortless. Maybe I should say easy because Granger put out plenty of effort at the offensive end.
Granger was named the league's Most Improved Player and certainly deserved that award for not only his improvement from the 2007-08 season but also for the way his game developed throughout last season as well. Most notably, Granger improved his ability to take the ball into the paint and finish or draw a couple of free throws which was usually as good as a bucket since he shot a Reggie-esque 87.8% from the line. He emerged as a lethal three-point threat finishing fourth in the league with 182 makes from three-land.
Despite all of those big stats, the area of Granger's game that impressed me most last year was how he asserted himself as the leader of the team and set the tone for the type of effort the team would display while expecting to win every game. In that way, he was an extension of Jim O'Brien on the floor.
Veterans Jermaine O'Neal and Jamaal Tinsley were no longer around to lead in their (how should I say this?) um, unique way, so Granger took advantage of the fresh start and simply led by example. He consistently gave up his body, wanted the ball at crunch time, was down right furious after close losses and celebrated like crazy after close wins. He was all in, all year.
Oh, and he was taking it to anyone who showed up on the other end of the floor. It wasn't just that Granger didn't back down when facing players like LeBron James, Paul Pierce or Kobe Bryant. No, Granger was actually instigating the chippy play and actually working his way under their skin. Early in the season, Granger's actions had these players raising their eyebrows and stepping back with a "Who does he think he is?" look on their face. But Granger continued to stand strong as they tried to put him in his place. By the All-Star break when he joined the elite players in Phoenix, they all knew he deserved his place among them as well as deserving their respect. Now that's impressive.
How did Granger disappoint?
As much as Granger set the tone for the team's approach, he wasn't real effective at the defensive end. I realize he was carrying a huge load at the offensive end and this was his first year as the number one option on the roster. But I think that let's Granger off too easy. It's not like he was coasting on defense, he just wasn't real effective.
Plus, there were times when he flashed the ability to wreak havoc at the defensive end. Specifically, I remember his third quarter performance at Phoenix, the game hhe eventually won with this beauty. In the third quarter, Granger played like a man possessed on defense, almost single-handedly disrupting everything the Suns were trying to do.
Now, the fact that I can pinpoint a specific time when Granger's defensive effort stood out highlights the need for development in that area. Oops, again I used effort which might imply Granger was dogging it at the defensive end. Not so. He just wasn't real effective and at times not real smart defensively, maybe trying to do too much. This was evident when he would crowd his man with the ball making an aggressive attempt to force his man into a mistake or at least giving up the ball. But Granger wasn't always ready to move when his man countered and would pick up a foul or allow his man to drive past him.
So while the effort was strong, Granger would've been better served playing his part within the team defensive scheme and not pressing the action when he was unable to lock-up his man by himself. Improving his technique and awareness will put that effort to better use at the defensive end.
Fortunately, Granger is still ascending the superstar mountain and while he is now an All-Star forward, there is still plenty of room to expand his game and make a bigger impact on win-loss record.
Essentially the Pacers need more of everything from Granger. Increasing his scoring average by another five points this year may be asking a bit much, but maintaining that 25 PPG average is certainly needed since he should have more help with Mike Dunleavy's offense returning to the floor.
What the Pacers really need from Granger is more rebounds, assists, blocks, steals and free throws along with more games played. Last year Granger averaged 2.7 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game. Doubling those assists and grabbing even two more rebounds a game would make his teammates better and go a long way to improving the Pacers chances to win more games.
No since limiting the expectations for what Granger can offer. Greatness demands high expectations and Granger has shown a willingness to work toward being a great player year after year. I just can't wait to see what improvements his game has to offer this year.
|2008 - Danny Granger||67||36.2||8.5||19.1||44.7||2.7||6.7||40.4||6.0||6.9||87.8||0.7||4.4||5.1||2.7||2.5||1.0||1.4||3.1||25.8|