Danny Granger has yet to play in an NBA game this season, but he may end up being the best player dealt before the trade deadline.
For the past month, there have been rumors that the Indiana Pacers will move their star small forward. When Granger went down with a knee injury, Paul George stepped up as the team’s No.1 option. The third-year man hasn’t disappointed this year, leading the Pacers to the top spot in the Central Division.
Meanwhile, Granger is almost fully recovered from his knee injury, and could be back on the court by Wednesday. If he can show in a few games that he’s back to his old form, there’s a chance the 29-year-old will be wearing a different uniform by Feb. 21.
Indiana president of basketball operations Donnie Walsh has stated publicly that he feels George and Granger can play well together. However, an ESPN report in mid-January claimed that the team would explore the possibility of trading Granger. The two play the same position, and George is seven years younger and set to make $11 million less next season.
One team that might be interested in acquiring Granger is the Houston Rockets. A week ago, Sam Amick of Fox Sports claimed that Houston might make a push for the Pacers star.
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Adding Granger to a starting lineup that already includes James Harden and Jeremy Lin could give Houston the best offense in the West. The Rockets currently rank second in scoring at over 106 points per game. The combination of Harden at shooting guard and Granger at small forward might be enough to elevate the Rockets into the same class with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, and San Antonio Spurs.
Despite the report, the chances of Granger joining Houston appear slim. According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, general manager Daryl Morey has lost interest in Granger since dealing for Harden before the start of the season. The Rockets are more in a need of an elite defender, and that part of Granger’s game has often been criticized.
Even if the Rockets have moved on from Granger, the Pacers could still deal him within the next 10 days. George has roughly matched Granger's production from 2011-2012, and it perhaps has made Granger expendable. In the lockout-shortened season, Granger averaged 18.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. Through 51 games, George is putting up 17.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists per contest.
Granger was among the best scorers in the NBA in the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons, but hasn’t been able to duplicate his production since. He has seen his scoring average dip every season after averaging 25.8 points per game in 2008-2009. There have been reports that the Pacers front office is concerned about the health of Granger’s knee, and worried that it won’t allow him to play a full season.
If the Pacers stand pat at the deadline, it might not because of a lack of suitors. While Granger has been plagued by knee problems, he remains a major asset for a contending club.
Indiana may also be hesitant to deal their prized forward based on their need for scoring. The Pacers are averaging less than 93 points per game, and would likely benefit from Granger's shooting.