First of all, we need to be honest with ourselves. Danny Granger’s season never actually got going for the Indiana Pacers.
Granger first suffered the injury that ended his season on Thursday back in the preseason. He returned in February for five games, averaged about 15 minutes in those contests, and offered the Pacers little to nothing as he clearly wasn’t anything close to what he was before the knee issue.
We should’ve seen Thursday’s season-ending surgery announcement as inevitable, especially after multiple failed rehab attempts and his exit from the rotation after that brief February stint.
The Pacers wanted to work Granger back into the rotation starting with Thursday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks, if the knee would allow him to do so. But was that ever a realistic option?
Consider the amount of time the Pacers would’ve had to figure out where Granger fits with the current roster. Indiana has less than ten games left on their regular season schedule, roughly equaling out to two weeks. So, in that time, Granger would have to prove he could regain some of the form that made him the Pacers’ leading scorer for five straight years, determine if he could eventually return to the starting lineup or be the lead guy with the reserves, and figure out how to play with a group that has learned how to operate effectively without him.
And that’s assuming the knee would let Granger accomplish those tasks. It wasn’t happening.
The bigger story, though, is the fact that the Pacers have made strides without him all season and have been residing near the top of the Eastern conference standings for much of the season.
Granger’s absence from the starting lineup allowed Paul George to shift to small forward, which is his natural position, and placed Lance Stephenson at the 2, making the Pacers better suited to guard traditional NBA lineups.
George, while also having a breakout season offensively, has become one of the league’s premier perimeter defenders. Last season, shooting guards who could put the ball on the floor gave him issues, as he just didn’t have the foot speed to keep up with most of them and it showed through his relatively high foul rate. Fast forward to this season, and George has cut down on the fouls and has consistently gave the opposition’s top wing player problems with his defense.
Throw in one of the elite rim protectors in the league in Roy Hibbert, plus other above-average defensive players in David West and George Hill, and it’s easy to see why Indiana leads the NBA in defensive efficiency. In fact, the Pacers never finished in the top eight in terms of defensive efficiency in the previous five seasons.
Don’t get me wrong, Indiana misses a healthy Granger, especially the offensive skills he possesses. At his peak, he was a fantastic scorer that was fueled by excellent outside shooting. He also improved his below-average defense over the past few seasons, making him not just a one-way player.
However, the Pacers offense has been on the up after a rough start to the season. This current group has worked out the wrinkles on the offensive end, as the starting lineup has outscored opponents by almost 20 points per 100 possessions since the All-Star break, per NBA.com.
Ultimately, Thursday’s news won’t make the Pacers a different team come the playoffs. What you see now is what they were always going to be under the current circumstances. The notion that Granger could’ve made a significant impact coming back from this specific injury is foolish.
Now, can they make a run at the Miami Heat? It’s certainly possible. But that outcome never hinged on Granger’s health.
Brandon Curry is an NBA writer for Rant Sports. Follow Brandon on Twitter @ByBrandonCurry