The NBA’s trade deadline is normally one of the most hyped events of the regular season. Some, including myself, would argue that it’s a bit over-hyped.
Typically, blockbuster deals never follow through before the 3:00 PM deadline. Trades that completely alter a franchise’s direction and play style are not the ones you see as the clock winds down. It’s all the smaller negotiations that cause the main ruckus.
Then there’s the unexpected trades, that fly under the radar until the last minute and leave a strong impact on a roster, and fan bases. The Indiana Pacers engaged in one of these deals on Thursday, as longtime franchise player Danny Granger was sent to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Granger’s former teammates were undoubtedly hit hard with the news, considering this team has exemplified many themes since joining together; all based on teamwork and unity not only as a basketball club, but also as a family.
Spending the last nine years in Indiana, Granger has three seasons under his belt of averaging over 20 points per game, and was Pacers’ focal point before Paul George showed promise that he would blossom. Since his knee issue throughout the 2012-13 season, however, he hasn’t been the juggernaut die-hard Indiana fans are used to, and it would be a stretch to say he’ll ever get back to that level. Granger has played 29 games for the Pacers this season after missing substantial time in November and December with a strained calf. In those 29 games (2 starts), he put together an average of 8.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per contest, while recording a 10.44 player efficiency rating (PER).
There seems to be one monumental aspect of this deal that keeps flying past everyone’s head.
Since the 2005-06 season, Granger has been part of an organization that continues to build their way back to prominence, which hasn’t been in Naptown since the 2000 NBA Finals team that was eliminated by the Los Angeles Lakers. Indiana has progressed in the right direction each season since obtaining Paul George, increasing their win total from 37 (George’s rookie season) to last year’s 49-win mark. The 2013-14 season has been a tale of the same story, as the Pacers are already 41-13 with 28 games remaining.
Granger has been on board at all times during this rebuilding journey. Now, he doesn’t get to experience of the joyful ending.
Unless you’re a fan of one of the deplorable teams outside of the Eastern Conference’s top two seeds, the Eastern Conference Finals has already been set and scheduled on your brackets for months now. Barring devastating injuries (that this season has proven can occur), Indiana will be bound for another fierce meeting with the Miami Heat. Not having the chance to contribute in last year’s May meeting, Granger was surely looking forward to getting in the heads of Miami’s crucial pieces, as he did in the 2012 East Semi-finals. Granger hasn’t had an opportunity for Playoff basketball since that run …. and now the wait just got longer.
The 15-40 76ers appear to be a solid three to five seasons from constructing into a playoff unit. But then again, let’s be honest …. nobody — not even General Manager Sam Hinkie — knows which rookies they will be able to land in the upcoming draft(s). Turning the corner on 31 years of age, Granger has to feel slightly pessimistic about shifting back to a team that will give him even worse results than his early years in Indiana.
In terms of improving the bench, there wasn’t any more realistic deals that could have made a direct impact. Bringing in Evan Turner — the highlight name of the trade — was the best move if Larry Bird and Kevin Pritchard indeed felt they had to make one.
Granger’s 7.7 shot attempts per night were not translating into the best results for the Pacers, as the veteran shot 35.9 percent from the field during his 29 games played this season. Turner, on the other hand, was slightly over Thaddeus Young as Philadelphia’s most dangerous scoring option, averaging 17.4 points per game in all 54 starts. Turner has been shooting respectably from the field, at 42.8 percent on the year. His perimeter shot isn’t as consistent or formidable as last season, with Turner shooting 28.8 percent from deep compared to his 36.5 percent in 2012-13.
Offensively, Turner gives Indiana a significantly stronger punch to any Eastern Conference team they’ll see in the postseason, including Miami. The most alarming aspect of Turner’s contributions will be the pressure he puts on Miami’s second unit, and even Dwyane Wade himself. When the two teams meet, Wade will need to have enough energy in his ailing knees to contain Turner AND Lance Stephenson, obviously in different periods throughout each game. That wouldn’t be a problem for Wade if that’s the only job he needed.
However, we understand Indiana’s defense is the most hard-nosed rim protecting bunch in the sport. Therefore, LeBron James — as great as he is — will not be able to put the team on his back for four games against Frank Vogel’s Pacers. He’ll need help on both ends, and you have to wonder if Wade is able to provide the spark. It’s ironic that the year James will need the most help …. his sidekick has been in-and-out.
Defensively, the Pacers are giving something up on their favorite facet of the game.
Turner is a 6’7″ small forward that has never fully been the defender his coaches or critics would like him to be. Granger takes pride in the defensive end of the ball, and his length, along with aggressive mentality, have allowed him to be rather successful in his 22.5 minutes per game off the bench this season. While he can’t score the ball how he used to, defense is normally an aspect of the game that just comes with natural ability, as well as effort. Granger has never lacked either.
The individual defensive rating statistics would be worthy of great points for an argument, but it fails to consider that Philadelphia, as a team, allows 110.5 points per game. Despite having a defensive-minded point guard in Michael Carter-Williams, the 76ers have been at the end of many jokes since the All-Star break, as two of their worst performances resulted in a 45-point beat down by the Clippers, followed by a 43-point loss to the Warriors.
Even though Turner’s team has been historically awful on defense, his individual defensive rating (which measures points allowed per 100 possessions) has reached 110 this season. Danny Granger, the far greater asset for getting stops, has a defensive rating this season of 99.
Joining Indiana comes along with certainty that Coach Vogel will implement the right techniques and system to form a player into the defender he needs. While Turner won’t receive the same type of treatment he did with a weaker Philadelphia roster, he’s ready for the next chapter … hopefully, for him, a championship ring.
Center Lavoy Allen will be placed in an interesting predicament if he indeed stays on board with the Pacers. Since the highly discussed signing of Andrew Bynum was completed at the beginning of February, Indiana is now loaded with frontcourt depth. Backups for Roy Hibbert and David West now include Bynum, Luis Scola, Ian Mahinmi, and Allen. Although he has started just two games this season for the 76ers, Allen has been given a ton of opportunities in his three-year career. Throughout his tenure in the NBA, Allen has averaged 19 minutes, 5.2 points, and 5.4 rebounds per game while shooting 45.3 percent from the field on 5.2 shot attempts per contest.
Before the season tipped off, Granger was assured by Donnie Walsh, a consultant for Basketball Operations, that he would not be traded. Nonetheless, things frequently change in this league. While the Pacers’ sense of personnel needs have altered, President Larry Bird’s desire to get back to the Finals has not. It’s now time for Turner to get acclimated with the first title contender he’s been a part of. All in the midst of holding off a streaking group in South Beach, who find themselves just 1 1/2 games out of the Eastern Conference one-seed.