Danny Granger makes debut, will remain on minutes limit

Granger has made his debut, but will remain on minutes limit

2/26/13 in NBA   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

Blog Photo - Danny Granger makes debut, will remain on minutes limitDanny Granger (knee) made his season debut on Saturday night, and although it didn't go quite as he had hoped, it has to be a great sight for Pacers fans to see their 2011-12 leading scorer back on the hardwood. Granger missed nine of his ten shots, scoring only two points in 19 minutes of play, but rust was to be expected. The best thing to see was that Granger did not shy away from getting his shot up, and that is ultimately what the Pacers will need him to do if they want to make a run at the Finals in the spring.

Despite the emergence of All-Star small forward Paul George, the Pacers struggle on the offensive end. They are ranked 26th in points per game, and 27th in field goal percentage. They play sensational defense (ranked 1st in opponent points per game), which is why they find themselves with the second best record in the Eastern Conference. If they want to make that final push to top-notch contenders, however, they will need to start putting more points on the board.

The Pacers have only two starters averaging 10+ points per game, and their leading scorer is Paul George at 17.6. With no elite scorer, the Pacers need another starter who is capable of scoring in the mid-teens on a nightly basis, and Granger should be that guy by the time the playoffs come around. As of now, however, he won't quite get the minutes to score like that.

The Pacers' website has reported that Granger will remain on a 15-20 minute cap for at least another week. Granger has stated that his knee is still not back at a hundred percent, so you can consider his game action a sort of final stage of rehab. As long as he can continue to get his shot back and regain his conditioning, however, he should be able to push for 30 minutes a night in a couple weeks.

The player who will be hurt the most by Granger's return is current starting shooting guard Lance Stephenson. After playing four minutes less than his season's average in Granger's first game back, you can only expect Stephenson's minutes to drop lower as Granger progresses and gets more playing time. There's also a good chance that Granger eventually regains his starting job, either by replacing Stephenson directly, or by Paul George moving to shooting guard and Granger being plugged in at small forward.

Stephenson is currently averaging 8.4 points per game, so Granger - who averaged 18.7 points per game last season - will be a significant upgrade once he can get back in game shape.

Although Granger was considered the Pacers' best player coming into the season, Paul George has erupted in Granger's absence, averaging 17.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game this season. Even once Granger is at a hundred percent, this will be George's team.

If you thought the Pacers were scary before, you don't want to see them once their former 25+ per game scorer is back in action. If Granger can return to form without the Pacers' defense taking a significant hit, this team has a very realistic shot at the NBA Finals.
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