With the Indiana Pacers bidding adieu to this year’s NBA playoffs, it’s quite evident that Danny Granger may not be the player he used to be, but Paul George isn’t quite there yet either. The Pacers have both players locked under contract and with the club’s salary commitments at just $35.5 million next season and $24. 8 million the year after, club president Larry Bird should plan on keeping Granger around for awhile longer.
George, a 21-year-old small forward, hasn’t been putting the numbers up on the board to warrant the team moving Granger just yet. His field goal percentage wasn’t bad in the regular season, but it fell dramatically in the playoffs from 45.3% to 30.3% as he sank just 10 of 33 attempts. He’s obviously got a lot of potential and a great upside, and had a fine rookie season. But it’s too early to expect him to carry the load for the Pacers. Somebody like the 28-year-old Granger could be an excellent teacher and mentor for him until he improves enough to take over.
On the bright side, Paul has the size at 6-foot-8 and a long wingspan. He can stretch the defense, has a quick release, and doesn’t need a lot of room to shoot. When you add that to his ability to run the floor and natural athleticism it makes him a pretty dynamic player. He’s also got great vision and passing skills for a perimeter forward and is good at rebounds as well as defense.
However, his shooting percentage needs to improve greatly and he’s a little trigger happy from behind the arc. He sometimes rushes long shots instead of allowing the play to develop and then looking for a better option. He needs to focus more, especially when defending. However, there’s nothing here that can’t be worked on with the right coaching and attitude. He’s got great potential, but it’s going to take some time. He can be especially affective playing with a strong point guard in a drive and dish game.
Granger, on the other hand, shot 43-for-90 for 47.8% in the five-game playoff loss to the Chicago Bulls and the 28-year-old forward shot 42.5 % on the season. Granger improved steadily after entering the league and his points-per-game improved by at least five after his rookie year, going from 7.5 to 25.8 over the span of three years, the only basketball player to achieve it in history. He was also named the NBA’s most improved player for 2008-09.
The Pacers have two reasonable draft picks this year in the first two rounds and with quite a bit of cap space to lure some free agents, they could improve greatly during the off-season. It’s a good bet that George will continue to improve and should have a fine sophomore season. Granger is still doing a good job and there’s no reason to get rid of him, especially considering that his salary isn’t hurting the club.
The best way to build strong teams in any sport is to keep your best players and add to them. The trick is to try and unload your ineffective players to other clubs. Making Granger expendable at this point would be a mistake. He scores points in bunches, and from all over the court. He’s a valuable player, and many teams might overpay for somebody like him, Hang onto him as long as he’s pulling his weight and contributing, unless the offer is too good to turn down.