I came into the office this morning wincing, because I knew I would have to rush to Danny Granger’s defense again.
Granger is back...er, back as in back on the court - not back back. That was evident in his woeful 1-for-10 performance the other night in Indiana’s blowout win over Detroit. With the Pacers playing their best basketball of the season over the last month, many have asked whether Granger's return would help or harm the Pacers.
My response: really?
We're questioning whether the team's leading scorer for the last two three five seasons will make them better? Yes, the Pacers have changed. This is now unquestionably Paul George's team. The 22-year old George is already well past where Granger was at his peak, when he represented a bad Pacers' team during the All-Star Game in Phoenix four years ago. But, everyone already knows that. The fans know it, Frank Vogel knows it, and Granger, who once had an academic scholarship offer from Harvard, is smart enough to have figured it out by now.
Granger gives the Pacers another capable scorer for the stretch run
Despite going over the century mark in six of ten February games, this is still an offense that needs help. Entering today, the Pacers were just 26th in points per game (93.7 ppg), and 27th in field goal percentage (43.3%). However, they've begun to really turn the corner offensively, and the advanced statistics (such as John Hollinger's efficiency rating) aren't too unkind. Even if Granger only gets between 12-13 ppg once he gets back into a groove, that still should make the Pacers a top-half offensive team. He's not anything more than an average defender, but he is not a liability on that end.
As for the "Granger ruins chemistry!" argument, I don't get it. What is chemistry? The only thing I know about it is that good teams have it, and bad teams, apparently, do not. As the terrific baseball writer Joe Sheehan pointed out, what's the difference between the 2004 and 2011 Boston Red Sox? The '04 "idiots" drank in the clubhouse. They won the World Series. The '11 group did the same thing, and collapsed spectacularly that September. Two teams, same method, yet only one had the super-powerful elixor known as "chemistry" propel them to a title. Just for kicks, let's pretend for a second that there is such a thing. Granger is a good scorer, capable defender, mature, intelligent, and is well-liked by his teammates. Does that sound like a guy that's going to irrevocably damage the Pacers' chemistry and send the 2012-13 season down the tubes? Come on. Seeing as how I received a C in 10th grade chemistry, and can barely recite a handful of elements in the Periodic Table, maybe I'm just not capable of understanding the concept.
Snarkiness aside, with Granger now in tow, check out Indiana's rotation (for now):
Bench: Augustin, Granger, Johnson, Mahinmi, T. Hansbrough
That ten-man rotation seems solid enough to me. If Gerald Green ever gets it together (doubtful), there's one more to add to the mix. With the Pacers ability to defend and rebound, they should be able to compete with anyone in a seven-game series, including Miami and the West powers.
Saturday' night's season debut aside, Granger will make the Pacers better. His teammates and coaches would unanimously tell you the same thing. Winning builds "chemistry", not the other way around, and with the way they're playing right now, there's no reason to think the Pacers will stop doing that.