By most accounts, the Indiana Pacers are one of three or four teams that figure to be in the mix atop the Eastern Conference in the 2013-2014 NBA season. After challenging and testing the Miami Heat in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals, the Pacers have improved and are looking to take the next step.
The biggest and most notable improvement for this Indiana team this season is with their bench, as I’ve discussed numerous times this off-season. After having an inconsistent and largely unproductive group of reserves last season, the Pacers now have a group of guys who should be able to maintain leads and even win them some games.
When talking about the Pacers’ improved bench, their free agent signings of Chris Copeland and C.J. Watson obviously come to mind, as does the trade with the Phoenix Suns that landed them veteran forward Luis Scola. The most highly discussed part of their bench, though, is Danny Granger who is returning after missing basically all of last season with injuries.
If healthy, Granger would be a huge piece for the Pacers. He has the ability to score in a variety of ways and has a demeanor that’s tough, calculated and easy for his teammates to get behind. He’s a valuable asset when healthy, but the issue remains that he can’t seem to stay healthy.
After coming off of a slew of injuries over the past two seasons, Granger has already suffered another minor injury in the preseason, straining his calf. Obviously that’s nothing serious, but with Granger and his injury history it’s not exactly a comforting sign either.
However, when you look at this Pacers team, Granger really isn’t vital to their success. They were able to make a deep postseason run without him last year and their bench is much better even without the return of Granger. He’s a great piece when healthy, but he’s a luxury, not a necessity, to this team. That’s also why he’s still being discussed as a possible trade piece.
In a recent column from Ric Bucher at Bleacher Report, Bucher discussed how the team will likely want to re-sign Lance Stephenson when he becomes a free-agent this summer, but a bigger deal would put them over the luxury-tax threshold. Bucher had an NBA executive say that the Pacers would not be in the tax next season. Reading between the lines, that could mean Granger is gone.
Granger isn’t a player that deserves to be condemned or called useless by any means. He still has a ton of skill and is simply victim to a number of injuries that have kept him from being the quality player that he can be. With where he is and where the Pacers are, though, he’s no longer the big piece on this team that they can’t live without. They did quite well without him last year and I don’t expect that to change if something, be it another injury or a trade, were to happen.