#33 / Forward / Indiana Pacers
Danny Granger’s (even more) breakout season was a special one. With a "hey, this guy is pretty good" 2007-08, Granger jumped all the way to legitimate top 20 player on any given night after his "hey, this guy is actually really good" 2008-09 in putting forth the franchise's best scoring efforts since Billy Knight in the team's first NBA season. NBA Most Improved Player, All-Star, top 5 scorer, Olympic invite, suddenly bunched with league MVPs and Finals MVPs, what exactly do you get the player who did just about everything? You know, besides getting him a quality team to not waste his prime?
One of the big knocks on Granger’s season was his defensive efforts, sometimes unwarranted and undeserved, but given the Pacers defense as a whole that season, no one should be exempt from that anyway. A further knock was the lack of Granger’s all around game. Leaping to one of the league’s best scorers, Granger’s all around numbers were not impressive enough for a 6’8" player. So all offseason, it was paramount we were all informed about Granger’s offseason workouts to improve his defense and all around game.
Granger was bothered before the season with a sore heel, but it was clear the Pacers were going to need everything they could get out of him in order for the team to find success in the new year. From the outset, it was clear Granger was not 100%, but looking closely, you could see where he had spent the offseason working. Unfortunately, his value to the team was immeasurable according to Jim O’Brien, as he hoped to get the team off to a good start on the year.
Eventually, the injuries caught up to Danny, tearing his plantar fascia, leading him to miss a month of game action, something that could’ve been avoided had he not been forced into 40 minutes of action every night (do we want to chalk that up as hindsight?). But what was done was done, and Granger’s season was put on hold, as his injury gave him no lift, contributing to his horrible shooting numbers.
When Danny returned, he finally looked healthy and was showing the league the measures of his progress, playing his best ball of not only the season, but possibly of his career as he got the best of Chris Bosh only to follow it up with an explosions of second half points in a win against the Suns. Unfortunately, his second straight All-Star bid fell short due in part to his injuries. From there, Granger’s play took a dive as he found himself dealing with some personal issues.
It was at that point in the year Granger began to throw up warning signs as a franchise player. Danny brought his personal problems to work, making it clear that he wasn’t able to show any emotion of his or the team’s play while he was showing his personal emotions. When he was right emotionally Granger was able to lead the team as the face of the franchise, but he often let himself get too low after losses.
Fortunately, Granger was able to pull himself from the darkest recesses of his heart and finish the year on the level he had wanted to play the whole season. He reached his career high against the Jazz, embarrassed Kevin Durant like he was at a late night Jay-Z concert the night before, and was a mortal lock to drop 30 on a league that simply could not contain his explosion of unbelievable.
So how did Granger impress?
When talking about a franchise player in an up and down, semi-injury plagued year, it’s easy to break it down in the good and the bad. For the good, Granger put together some great stretches, and showed some great wares on the floor. I believe his overall play showed improvement in areas he had hoped to, even though his injuries did a good job of hiding some of those finer points. Due in part to O’Brien’s small ball lineups, Granger was able to improve his skill set in rebounding, even though he was considerably less effective as a four instead of his natural three (to all of our surprise, I’m sure). There was also some improved defensive ability at times (though not really much in that four spot…).
Danny showed some nice swagger at times, and I must say, even though he didn’t (and at the same time wasn’t able to) show up in the fourth quarter against Phoenix, him shushing the crowd in the Pacers "this is a really bad time to turn this season around…" game was a lot of fun.
And how did Granger disappoint?
Injuries aside, some flags were thrown up for Danny’s overall play this past season. His poor shooting to start the season was improved by a strong finish, but he still had career lows in FG%. His injury really hampered the start of the season, as he just couldn’t get any lift as his clanks always seemed to be attracted to that front iron. His emotional stretch around the All-Star break was unfortunate for a franchise player, but I only want to use that in comparison to other franchise players in tough spots (Dirk?), not to necessarily suggest I was disappointed in him having being in an emotional state. Granger was also especially poor when playing out of position. I mean, that only makes sense, but there is a lack of versatility when expecting Granger to have to go against a large interior giant.
Well…what’s next for Granger?
Something that’s becoming more common is Pacers fans discussing the possibility of getting maximum value of out of Granger in trades. The recent Jonny Flynn deal was speculated by the fans to have to include Granger. It’s unclear whether the team can ever get enough help for Danny to win with him, but what the fans see and what management sees are no doubt two separate things, because the franchise will continue to work towards making him the go to guy for the long haul.
It’s not to suggest you can’t win with Granger as your best player, but it is to suggest that you need to fill the right pieces around him to maximize his talents. The team isn’t there yet, and it’s unclear if they can get there while he continues to be a useful player. With Granger’s value still at an all time high, a team could theoretically have him for the right price, a very steep price. However, that would send the Pacers into an immediate rebuild, ruining the three year plan currently (still?) in effect.
But barring the perfect return of talent, contracts, and draft picks, don’t expect to see Granger in another team’s uniform without him requesting a trade first. Though, if his reaction during the Draft Lottery is any indication, I don’t imagine he’ll sit by like Mitch Richmond if marked improvement isn’t shown by the Pacers. As long as he doesn’t sabotage the team’s return like Ron Artest, we can only hope the team acts in their best interest with their most valuable interest.