By Justin Whitaker
— While this year’s NBA trade deadline went more like a “Best of CSPAN” marathon than the typical big headline, transaction flurry that every late February brings in the Association, the Indiana Pacers improved without making a move.
No career All-Star selection was traded at the deadline for the first time since 2007 and thankfully the Indiana Pacers helped end that streak by not shipping away 2009 All-Star Danny Granger.
Ever since the Pacers drafted Paul George in 2010, Granger has been mentioned in countless trade rumors. Those rumors only intensified this season as the 6-foot-9 small forward has so far missed all of the 2012-13 season with a knee injury and George has emerged as the All-Star that fans and analysts expected.
George is averaging career-highs of 17.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4 assists and 1.8 steals per game this season without Granger yet to see the floor. But the eight-year veteran is on the verge of returning from injury any day now.
Why people think that Granger and George cannot co-exist is mindboggling. These are not brand new teammates playing together for the first time. Their playing styles won’t just suddenly stop meshing.
Indiana made the playoffs both years since George was drafted and appear to be heading towards a top three finish in the East this season (2-0 against No. 1 Miami, 2-1 against No. 2 New York), even without Granger yet to hit the floor.
Granger and George both are solid defenders, both can shoot the three ball, both play on the perimeter and together they make the Pacers than much better.
Like Indiana coach Frank Vogel told Fox 59’s Jeremiah Johnson on Thursday before the 3 p.m. the trade deadline, they did make one move.
“We acquired an all-star level player at the small forward spot… he should be joining us any day now,” Vogel said smiling. “No. 33 is what he’s going to wear for us, we’re looking forward to having him. We’re looking at Danny Granger as our trade deadline acquisition.”
Vogel is spot on. The return of Granger does nothing but strengthen the Pacers.
Lance Stephenson’s career-season will continue, just now off the bench.
The third-year pro’s averages of 8.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game will help provide a spark for the Pacers’ second unit, their only weakness this season.
Having both Granger and an improved George together on the court gives Indiana that extra firepower that is needed to get the Pacers out of the bottom rung of scoring and shore up its top ranked defense.
Some NBA teams are attempting to model themselves after the Miami Heat and create their own “Big 3.”
Small market Indiana will never be able to compete with the Miami, Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas teams for the elite free agents. What the Pacers have done though is create an actual team that is not solely based on two or three players.
Besides Granger and George, David West and George Hill are more than capable of leading Indiana in scoring on any given night. Roy Hibbert has struggled offensively this season at times but rounds out the Pacers starting five with an impressive two and half blocks per game.
Having two premium scorers on the same, in the same lineup, at the same time works in the NBA and has worked for Granger and George in the past.
Granger provides a steadier shot from the perimeter while George is able to create his own shot and get to the rim better than his counterpart.
Good players make everyone else around them better by making the team harder to defend and harder to predict. Granger and George do that for Indiana.
After giving Miami its best opposition in the 2012 NBA playoffs, the 1-2 punch of a healthy Granger and improved George provide the Pacers with the best chance of knocking out the Heat in the 2013 postseason.
Come playoff time and even before then, Indiana fans will appreciate having Granger in the blue and gold and not wearing different colors on a different team.