Danny Granger will be re-joining the Indiana Pacers soon. (Photo via Zimbio)
Big things are brewing in Indiana.
After a somewhat rough start, they’ve proven that last season was no fluke and the Pacers once again appear to be one of the toughest teams in the Eastern Conference. They’re currently a half-game ahead of the Chicago Bulls for the lead in the Central Division and their starting five is firing on all cylinders.
David West has returned to his usual form after a weak–by-his-standards–2011-12 campaign and Paul George has established himself as one of the finest young talents in the league. This team has made it abundantly clear that they are here to stay.
Oh, and they’ve done all of this without Danny Granger.
Yes, the long-time Pacers small forward went down just before the season began and has yet to set foot on the court this season. At first, it looked like the Pacers’ 2012-13 would go down in flames with the loss of Granger. They just didn’t seem to have their usual firepower and it looked like the lack of offense would turn them from a potential title contender into a fringe playoff team.
Instead, the players who were there stepped their game up and the Pacers have thrived. In addition to the excellent play of George and West, George Hill established himself as a legitimate starting point guard and, while Roy Hibbert has struggled on the offensive end, his defense is as tight as ever and he’s a huge part of why the Pacers are second in the league in points allowed per game at a highly stingy 90.4.
Now, however, Granger is looking to make his return and the question needs to be asked; would the Pacers work better with Granger on the second unit?
To some, this may seem like sacrilege. Granger has been the anchor of the Pacers ever since his arrival in 2005. He’s been the team’s leading scorer year in and year out and has basically become the face of the team. Bringing a player like that off the bench just feels strange.
But considering where the Pacers are right now, it also might be their best option. Their current starting five has played together all season and they’ve developed great chemistry.
Bringing in a high-usage player like Granger could severely disrupt the flow. Granger was replaced in the starting lineup by Lance Stephenson, a quietly effective player who doesn’t take many shots. In other words, the exact opposite of Granger.
Putting Granger back in the starting five could lead to conflict between him and George. From a chemistry standpoint, it just doesn’t make since to try fit Granger into the starting lineup when the group they have now has become so effective.
Paul George has thrived since becoming a small forward. (Photo by Getty Images)
Plus. Granger as a sixth man just makes sense. He’s an instant-offense kind of player who could lend some energy to a relatively weak second unit. Right now, the Pacers lack any players who they know can score off the bench.
Tyler Hansbrough has his moments and D.J. Augustin has looked better after a horrible start, but neither is reliable. Granger is a proven scorer whose presence off the bench could make the team deadly on the offensive end. He would likely be more productive off the bench than in the starting lineup.
There’s an obvious comparison for this; what the New York Knicks have done with Amare Stoudemire. There was reluctance to bring a player of his stature off the bench, but the move has paid off extremely well.
Stoudemire has been an extremely efficient scorer and has made the Knicks’ second unit much scarier than it had been previously. An added bonus of this was that Stoudemire no longer shares the floor with Carmelo Anthony as much, meaning the frequent friction between the two has decreased significantly. Bringing Granger off the bench decreases the chances that he’ll be fighting with West and George for touches. Really, there’s just no downside to this move.
When Granger returns, he will need to be carefully re-integrated back onto the team and the smartest way to do that is to bring him off the bench. That way, the current starting five can keep doing what it’s doing, and the second unit will improve immensely.
As long as Danny Granger is willing to accept a bench role, he could thrive as the sixth man and lead the team to great success in the postseason.
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