Danny Granger finds himself in an interesting position with the Indiana Pacers.
After being the team’s best player and franchise cornerstone for nearly his entire career, he missed most of this season with chronic knee pain that forced him to have surgery. With him on the bench for the entire playoffs and all but five regular season games, the Pacers took another step forward as a team by advancing to the Conference Finals, ultimately falling in 7 grueling games to the Miami Heat.
As Granger sat on the bench, he saw younger teammates — Paul George and Roy Hibbert specifically — step up and take up the mantle as the new franchise cornerstone players. And now, he enters into the final year of his max contract with no clear defined role and an uncertain status.
In a sit-down with David Aldridge that appears in Aldridge’s must read Morning Tip column, Granger seems to understand that his days in Indiana may be numbered:
I’ve been here my whole career. I look at things objectively, and it’s very rare for a player to stay with a team his whole career. It just don’t happen. So when the trade talks come, you can say, okay, it’s my time to go. I love the organization and I had a great time here [but] we understand it’s a business. You get older and you move on. That’s just the way it is. There’s no hard feelings about it; you don’t get your feelings hurt. I take it as a business arrangement, basically.
It is clear that Granger can see the writing on the wall. After all, as much of a history he has with the Pacers, they have a team to continue to build and trading him in order to find more, better fitting pieces is a real possibility. In this era of a new CBA, Granger’s expiring deal may net the team more than one useful player who could step in and provide the Pacers some much needed depth on the wing and/or in the front court.
All that said, Granger also seems to understand that there’s a new pecking order and expresses some level of comfort that he would need to take a step back in order to fit into the team that went so far without him:
I’m not 25 anymore. Going to get 22, 23 points a game, it’s tough, it’s hard, when you have teams gunning for you. I’m 30 now. I’ll gladly defer to the younger teammates and put more of the burden on them than on myself. I can still carry a heavy load, but not as much as I did in the past. And I don’t want to. It’s not even a question.
What the Pacers decide to do is still unknown. But if Granger really is willing to take a back seat to George, maybe even accepting a bench role, the Pacers could be an even more dangerous team than they were this season. Granger is no longer the 20 point per game scorer he was pre-injury, but he is a viable perimeter threat who can do damage as a shooter and slasher when playing off of George and Hibbert.
On the other hand, the Pacers still could try to maximize Granger’s trade value and try to get more parts who could help the team take that next step. How much value Granger has after his injury limited him to so few games remains to be seen, but the Pacers could be willing to simply cut bait and continue to add to the roster who was so close to the Finals.
Either way, Granger seems to be good with the outcome.