COMMENTARY | The Indiana Pacers are heading into a season where many NBA analysts believe they have a legitimate chance to win their first NBA championship.
They have a talented roster from top to bottom and are prepared to welcome back their on-court leader Danny Granger, who missed all but five games last season due to a knee injury. Lance Stephenson was able to step in and fill the void that Granger left very well, and he has made a case to start at shooting guard for the Pacers this season.
Frank Vogel is faced with a very difficult decision, but, either way, both of these guys are going to play a major role in determining Indiana's success. Lance Stephenson is a younger, more aggressive player in transition than Granger and would add a level of aggressiveness and play-making ability that Granger does not have. Granger, on the other hand, would add a 3-point shooting threat and all-around scoring threat that Stephenson just doesn't have.
Both of these guys are capable of starting and playing at a high level for any NBA team, and they're both going to be free agents following the season as well. The question that Vogel has to make is which one fits better with the current starters, and which one is better served coming off the bench.
Due to Granger's recent knee problems, he'll likely have to come back and have his minutes nursed. The last thing that the Pacers want to risk is playing him too many minutes and having him re-injure his knee. Another reason that Granger could be better served coming off of the bench would be his perimeter shooting and scoring ability. Outside of C.J. Watson and Luis Scola, the Pacers' second unit is not going to have a whole lot of scoring ability. Granger would be able to be the go-to guy off the bench, and is very adept at creating his own shot. He could be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Pacers' bench.
Lance Stephenson showed this past season what he can do alongside the current Indiana Pacers' starting lineup. He adds an aggressive, athletic, and big body at the shooting guard position. While he has a very inconsistent outside shot, he was capable of knocking down the open 3 last year. He has been working hard on his shooting this offseason, and it sounds like that area of his game will be much improved from last season as well.
The next question comes down to the defensive aspect of these two guys. Indiana is known as a "smash-mouth" basketball team, and both Stephenson and Granger fit that mold. Think back to two years ago when the Pacers and Heat were matching up with Granger and LeBron James going at each other. It was very clear that Danny Granger was playing with a chip on his shoulder, and he was not going to back down from James. Stephenson also plays with an edge about him, so either of these guys fits the mold that the Pacers are looking for.
Overall, this decision is going to come down to Granger's health. If they feel that he is completely healed and able to shoulder a heavy workload immediately, then he'll be the starter on opening night. However, if there is any doubt about Granger, or if they just want to monitor his minutes, Stephenson will become the starter. Coach Vogel has made it clear already during training camp that both Granger and Stephenson can expect to see starter minutes.
Having two players at one position that are both capable of starting is a coaching dream. There could be an issue depending on how the players feel about coming off the bench, but that doesn't seem to be the case in Indiana. Both Granger and Stephenson have made it clear to the team that they are willing to do whatever is best for the team as a whole. These two guys are both great talents with great attitudes, which makes this a great situation for the Indiana Pacers.
Evan Massey lives in Indianapolis and has followed the Pacers for the past 15 years. He has written for many online NBA websites, including Hoops-Nation.com, Pro Football Spot, and Naptown's Finest. Follow Evan on Twitter at @massey_evan.
- Sports & Recreation
- Danny Granger
- Lance Stephenson
- Indiana Pacers