The Indiana Pacers are off to a hot start as they are the last unbeaten team this NBA season, with their 8-0 record. They’re playing efficient basketball with stifling defense, with 91 being the most points they’ve allowed in a single game. Paul George is coming into his own as a star averaging 24.9 ppg on almost 48% from the field and 40% from three point range. Lance Stephenson is building a strong resume thus far as a starter, averaging 14 ppg and leading the team in assists at about six per game. Roy Hibbert and David West are a formidable frontcourt duo, with the acquired Luis Scola providing depth off the bench. George Hill, in his five games played, is averaging double figures scoring while shooting 47% from three point range.
They seem to be doing just fine. So what’s the question?
There’s someone rather significant missing from this equation. Former All Star forward Danny Granger.
Granger has missed significant time due to injury, playing only five games last season. His absence was the catalyst for George’s expected, yet still overnight success. He is set to return to the team soon, so this begs to question where he fits into the current nucleus.
I’d write this next chapter one of two ways.
My vision is that he doesn’t fit. The Pacers are engineered in a post-Granger setting. This new chemistry is formed around breakout star Paul George, who I believe does everything Granger does, and better, in addition to contributing more. Granger is a stretch wing scorer, standing 6’9”, who can shoot the lights out any given night. George, also listed at 6’9”, is an athletic wing who’s also a three point threat. In addition, George is an All-NBA Second Team defender, which Granger cannot claim.
In fact, George has accrued every accolade Granger has (All Rookie 2nd Team, Most Improved, All Star), and then some (All Defensive 2nd Team, All NBA Third Team). Essentially, Granger has been replaced, and I believe he will soon be forgotten about.
So, what to do with Granger? Assuming his injury rehab was successfully, he can still be a viable scoring threat, though most likely not in the same volume as his career high 25.8 ppg in 2009. The best move would be to trade him for either solid draft picks, as the Pacers are on pace (pardon the pun) to post an impressive record and not be in lottery position come draft night, or for more depth at the wing positions or in the paint. George and Stephenson need more help off the bench, particularly with defending the perimeter, as their scoring responsibilities have increased, and a team can never have too much size in the paint.
The other way to approach the Granger situation, if the team is committed to him down the long run, would be to slowly incorporate him back in the lineup off the bench. George owns the three position and Stephenson has proven himself to be a viable starting asset. Granger can provide support off the bench with his scoring abilities, cementing himself as the anchor of the second unit. Combined with point guard CJ Watson and Scola off the bench, Granger and the Pacers could present one of the stronger second units in the league, which will help them stay in games by keeping starters rested and out of foul trouble.
Granger is still valuable to Indiana, either as a contributor or a market asset. However, if they choose to go the route of relocating him, they’d better do it while he still has market value. He is 30 years old and has a history of injuries, so his resume isn’t the strongest, but he’s had plenty of rehab time, and I predict he’ll still be solid once he shakes the dust off.