He is coming off of a knee injury that kept him out of all but five games last year, but he looked very healthy in the preseason and was finally getting his basketball legs back under him. Unfortunately, he suffered a strained calf toward the end of the preseason and has been out since the injury occurred.
Because of the fast start that the Pacers have had, the nagging question is how Danny Granger will be used when he does come back. Granger began practicing with the Pacers again this week and is targeting a return either this week or next. Frank Vogel has been quoted as saying that he could see situations where Lance Stephenson would start and other situations where he would start Danny Granger. Those comments were before Stephenson showed up and began playing the best basketball of his career and being the second-best player each and every night for the Pacers.
Danny Granger is more than happy to come back and play any role that the Pacers ask him to play, but he has also made it clear that he feels much more comfortable in the starting lineup. Those feelings make it very difficult for Frank Vogel to put Danny Granger on the bench, but the team will be much more effective with Granger coming off the bench and Lance Stephenson continuing to play with the starters.
The Pacers' bench has been much-improved already this year and adding a healthy Danny Granger to the bench would beef them up even more. Having an All-Star coming off the bench would be something that not many NBA teams have the ability to say, and it could be exactly what the Pacers need to solidify their positioning over the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference.
Despite the improvement in the Pacers' bench, they are still struggling to a point as far as scoring production guys. They are currently averaging 22.5 points per game, which is the second-lowest average in the NBA. Adding Granger's ability to both shoot the basketball from beyond the three-point line and create his own shot from mid-range and at the rim to the bench would improve their scoring number.
One thing to keep in mind when it comes to Danny Granger, is that his future health is also a key factor. If the Pacers did put Danny Granger back in the starting lineup and give him starters minutes, he could wear down fast and wind out re-injuring something or developing a knee injury. As a bench piece, he would be able to play a good 16-20 minutes per game and contribute as much as he could in that time frame. That role could very well be exactly what he needs to get his feet back under him in order to be playing his best basketball when the playoffs arrive.
Indiana is showing that it is a legitimate championship contender, and adding Danny Granger to the mix makes the team much more lethal. If he's willing to accept a bench role and become the leading scorer with the second unit, the Pacers get much deeper and more experienced. Don't expect Vogel to plug Granger back into the starting lineup soon, or quite possibly at all this season.
Evan Massey lives in Indianapolis and has followed the Indiana Pacers for the past 16 years. He has written for many sports websites including ProSportsExtra.com, Hoops-Nation.com, ProFootballSpot.com, and NaptownsFinest.com. Follow Evan on Twitter at @massey_evan.
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