Danny Granger expects to start next season, and Frank Vogel plays along for now

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The Pacers’ starting lineup this season was one of the NBA’s best. George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert meshed together extremely well, both offensively and defensively. It was almost as if Indiana’s management assembled that group to play heavy minutes together. Almost.

If not for injuries, Danny Granger would have certainly started over Stephenson. Instead, Granger played just five games – all of the bench – between two knee injuries.

Stephenson certainly stepped up, going from on his way out of the NBA to a solid starter on a team that reached the Eastern Conference Finals.

But what happens next year if Granger returns? Zak Keefer of The Indianapolis Star:

Following the Game 7 loss, Granger said he expected to be back in the starting lineup at the start of next season.

Vogel was asked if he saw things the same way.

“Probably,” he said. “We gotta see how he returns. My anticipation is that he’s going to have a full recovery. I told him if he returns to full health and the ability that he’s exhibited throughout his career, then he’ll be the starter.”

Vogel added that he challenged Lance Stephenson, who in Granger’s stead had a breakout year, to “not let that happen.”

Granger is 30 years old. Under normal circumstances, he’d probably be declining. Considering he had two knee surgeries in seven months, he and the Pacers must accept there’s a very real chance he never approaches his All-Star level again.

But if Granger is healthy, Vogel will have a delicate situation on his hands managing not only the on-court combinations, but also the egos off the court. So far into his young coach career, Vogel has looked great, but this could be his biggest test to date.