How Can Danny Granger's Positional Versatility Help The Pacers?

My post yesterday about finding some ways for Troy Murphy and Roy Hibbert to work better together raised some discussion in the comments. The sticking point for many readers was my suggestion that the Pacers consider making Danny Granger their starting Power Forward and have Murphy work off the bench as the back-up Center.

I presented some statistics indicating that the Pacers were much more effective last season when Granger played Power Forward. Those positive influences were made even stronger when Granger was paired with Hibbert and Brandon Rush.

In support of this idea I compared the Pacers' Offensive/Defensive Ratings and Offensive/Defensive Rebound Rates with Granger at Power Forward to those of the Pacers as a whole. A reader wondered in particular if I could put together a comparison of those stats for when Granger played Power Forward and when he played Small Forward. I also was able to gather some of his individual statistics for each position. Finally, a reader wanted to know who was most often playing at the Center position when Granger was at Power Forward.

Statistics, graphs and analysis after the jump . . .

Let's begin by looking at the Offensive/Defensive Ratings and Offensive/Defensive Rebound Rates for the Pacers when Granger is at Small Forward and Power Forward. As in the last post I have included the 2009-2010 NBA League Average for comparison.

Granger_position_ratings_medium

 Granger_position_rebound_medium

The Offensive and Defensive Ratings tell bascially the same story as we found yesterday. With Granger at the Power Forward the Pacers posted a positive Overall Rating of +2.03. With Granger at the Small Forward the team had an atrocious -3.50 Overall Rating. In both cases the Pacers were above average offensively and below average defensively. Although, they were a much better defensive team with Granger at the Power Forward.

The rebounding numbers also look very similar to what we saw yesterday. With Granger at either position the Pacers were a well below average defensive rebounding squad. Unsurprisingly, they were a better rebounding team on both ends of the floor when Danny Granger was at the Small Forward. The team's poor rebounding numbers with Granger at Power Forward makes their positive Overall Rating and strong defensive performance in this scenario even more impressive.

I would have really liked to look at these same numbers for the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 seasons, but BasketballValue.com, where I took these stats from, didn't assign positions in their five man unit statistics until this season.

The next thing I wanted to look at was Danny Granger's individual stats for his minutes at each position. Below are his numbers for the last three season at Small Forward and Power Forward. I have also included his opponent's stats(O/SF - O/PF) for his minutes at each position. All stats are per 48 minutes.

Danny_position_stats_medium

While these stats don't seem to be overly consistent from season to season, there were a few distinct patterns. While still at a rebounding disadvantage compared to his counterpart, Granger is a much better rebounder and shot-blocker from the Power Forward position. While his assists go slightly down at the Power Forward position, his turnovers go way down. He doesn't score as well at Power Forward, but his shooting percentages stay very consistent.

One of the ideas I have heard floated in several places is the idea of moving Danny Granger to Shooting Guard. I am not sure how 82games.com (where I got these stats) assigns positions, but they don't have Granger as playing even one minute at Shooting Guard over the past three seasons. Whether or not you like the idea of moving Granger to the front-court, it seems a lot more plausible then asking him to play Shooting Guard.

The final issue I wanted to look at today was the minute distribution at Center while Granger was playing Power Forward.

 Center_minutes_medium

Hibbert and Murphy split the bulk of the minutes fairly evenly, while the rest of the minutes went to Solomon Jones, Jeff Foster, Josh McRoberts and Tyler Hansbrough.

To summarize, there are obviously some advantages and disadvantages to playing Granger at Power Forward. Granger played 2,278 minutes last season, with 1,147 of them at the Power Forward position. This is essentially half of his time on the court, and maybe with some improvements in other areas, this same balance could be enough to push the Pacers towards a winning record.

The other point I would like to make is that this suggestion of playing Danny Granger at Power Forward is not necessarily a call for him to change his game. Half of his minutes last season came at this position and offensively he played those minutes very similar to the way he played at Small Forward. These positive numbers may be as much an indication of the strength of the Pacers playing a small lineup, anchored by Hibbert with the floor spread around him, as it is of any particular skill or attribute of Danny Granger's.

Maybe a simpler way to think about my suggestion is that the Pacers were much better last season when they played a small lineup, and that they need to factor this into their lineup decisions next season. The Pacers played small often last year, but usually as a reaction to the team falling behind. Perhaps the Pacers should think about making the small lineup the status quo, and use a conventional or big lineup as a reaction to game situations?

I hope these numbers helped clarify my suggestions. I would love to hear anyone's further thoughts on the matter!

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