Who would you guess ESPN analyst Tim Legler said might be "the happiest guy of all" after the Pacers completed a surprise swap of Danny Granger for Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen with the Philadelphia 76ers?
Evan Turner? No.
Lavoy Allen? Nope.
Larry Bird? Keep thinking.
No more guesses?
The answer is... LeBron James... wait, huh?
Yes, Legler believes that LeBron and the Heat will be the biggest beneficiaries of Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen joining the Indiana Pacers' roster. Here is a brief run-down of his thoughts on the trade:
It's a head-scratcher to me. I understand that Danny Granger doesn't look like the Danny Granger that we knew - a 25-point scorer in this league who was the best player on this team. He's been hurt most of the time while Paul George has emerged. Danny Granger, at some point, was going to pay dividends for this team whether it's late in the year or in the playoffs against a team like Miami because he's an x-factor that can get hot and can carry you offensively. Now, Evan Turner's averaging 17 [points per game] for Philadelphia, but he's taking 16 shots to do that. He's at 42 percent on a bad team. Is that going to translate to helping the Indiana Pacers with offensive production off their bench, which I think is critical, because I still think Paul George will have moments where he'll be quiet in that series against Miami. Granger could have been the difference-maker to make up for that. I don't know if Evan Turner can be.
Can Evan Turner be a difference-maker on a playoff team? Perhaps, the best way to evaluate that would be to compare Turner's production on the 2011-2012 76ers team, which was just one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals, to that of Granger this season.
2011-2012 Regular Season: 9.4ppg, 5.8rpg, 2.8apg, 44.6FG%
2012 Playoffs: 11.2ppg, 7.5rpg, 2.5apg, 36.4FG%
2013-2014 Regular Season: 8.3ppg, 3.6rpg, 1.1apg, 35.9FG%
Even back then, as a second-year role player alongside two All-Stars (Jrue Holiday and Andre Iguodala), Turner's contribution to his team was higher across the board than Granger has been this season as a member of the second unit. Granted, thus far this season, on a subpar, up-tempo squad, Turner's stats (17.9ppg, 6.1rpg, 3.8apg) may be slightly inflated, but that does not change the fact that his production has steadily increased each year he has been in the league. He may not be the sharp shooter from long-range that Danny Granger once was, but that does not mean he cannot be a solid, back-up for the Pacers. The following Kirk Goldsberry graphic highlights some of his strengths:
Evan Turner brings a solid midrange game and mediocre 3-point shooting to Indy; here's his chart: pic.twitter.com/HvnF9pacTH— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) February 20, 2014
Despite some of Turner's more obvious strong points, Legler was not done analyzing what he seemingly felt was a bad trade for the Pacers:
The bigger question for me is this: Indiana has a two-game lead on Miami. They play two more times. And now you've changed the dynamic of your team somewhat. They might end up losing the number-one seed if they don't get consistency down the stretch here and ultimately be in the same position they were in a year ago. And they made that their mission, not to allow that happen to them and that's what's interesting to me about this. LeBron James might be the happiest guy of all right now.
While perhaps not as bamboozled as Tim Legler, other analysts' reaction to the Pacers' final-hour exchange could be described as lukewarm, at best. For instance, former Spur, Bruce Bowen did not think the trade would move the needle, good or bad, for Indiana:
It won't have much of an impact. This gives more minutes to others like C.J. Watson, Chris Copeland and/or Rasual Butler. It also allows Paul George to play extended minutes and not have to worry about keeping players happy. It's really just the business of basketball. Granger hasn't played in two years and George has emerged as the star that Granger wasn't.
Similarly, Antonio Davis expressed surprise that the Pacers would part with the lifelong Pacer, but was willing to put his trust in Larry Bird's judgment:
I am shocked that the Pacers traded Danny Granger. I thought he provided them a different dynamic, being able to defend at the 3 and 4 positions. He seemed to be accepting his new role and he was gaining confidence and also added depth and experience to the bench, which I feel is the weak link of the Pacers. I'm assuming this had everything to do with business and not necessarily with the team on the floor. The one thing I will say, between Donnie Walsh, Larry Bird and Kevin Pritchard, I'm not questioning moves they make. There had to be a very good reason.
Of course, unlike Legler, not everyone felt that LeBron would be the only one whooping and hollering over this move. Interestingly, some may remember that prior to the season Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose both expressed some reservations with the Pacers' roster unless Granger was flipped for a bench scorer. The following is an excerpt from a post here at Indy Cornrows that summarized Clairvoyant Bill's predictions for the Pacers:
Rather boldly, Clairvoyant Bill announced that the Pacers cannot make the NBA Finals without making a trade. Both also predicted that Larry Bird will realize this and, in turn, flip Danny Granger's contract before the deadline. Simmons even went so far as to say that flipping Granger's expiring contract is the single most important trade anyone in the top 8 can make this year. Jalen agreed with Bill's prediction (of course, this comes off Rose's recent assertion that Danny Granger is done playing at an all-star level - an observation he made while traveling with the team during the Global Games), and later added that the Pacers need another creator on the perimeter - someone who can get his own shot, create space for George to operate, and readily dish drop passes to Hibbert and West in the paint.
After reading the above summary it should come as no surprise that former Pacer, Jalen Rose reacted positively to Bird's acquisition of Turner and Allen:
This really helps Indiana add depth and get better offensively. This move and the Bynum move show that Larry Bird is putting all of the chips into the middle of the table and going for the franchise's first NBA title.
Jon Barry, who in the past has been critical of the Pacers' lack of offensive production, also looked upon the trade favorably:
I think it is a fantastic deal for Indiana. Granger clearly hasn't been the same player since returning from the knee injury and the Pacers are now Paul George's team. Now you add a player in Turner that is solid in every area of the game to bolster and already improved bench. I love this move.
Likewise, Avery Johnson, fresh off watching and analyzing the Pacers' poor performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves in which Granger scored just two points while going 1-of-6 from the field, felt that adding the fourth-year, 76ers swingman was a solid move:
I think as much as I wanted to see the Danny Granger experiment work for Indiana, I just didn't see the lift and explosiveness that he had prior to his injury. I think the thinking with Indiana was to get somebody younger and more athletic who can help anchor that second unit by helping C.J. Watson and Andrew Bynum, when he gets healthy. I think for the 76ers, it's one of those situations where Granger is in the last year of his contract. They can use this as a test run to see if this is a piece that they could rehab and get him healthy and back to playing like he did as a scorer with a career average of 18 points a game.
In all, the analysts' reaction to the acquisition could be described as a mixed bag of tricks - some were high on the move, others were indifferent, and, at least, one felt that it could be detrimental to the Pacers' ability to maintain first place in the Eastern Conference.
Certainly, Danny Granger deserves the well wishes of the Pacers' franchise and fans after spending his entire career in Indiana. That being said, it seems doubtful that LeBron James will be the lone person celebrating this player acquisition at the end of the season. Turner provides not only length and athleticism, but he also possesses the ability to create his own shot. No doubt, it will be an adjustment for the team both functionally and personally to adjust to two new teammates on the fly, but it is also hard to ignore that Granger was struggling to find his rhythm in the second unit and was still lacking in mobility after returning from injury.
Now, can Turner be the difference-maker off the bench that the Pacers have been searching for? Only time will tell, but below is one of his best highlights during the playoffs while donning a 76ers uniform.