Chris Bosh may have started his All-Star campaign a little late in Toronto, or was it Texas, earlier this season. So itís never too early to start tooting your own horn regarding your merits for a position on your conferenceís squad. Too bad Indianaís Danny Granger isnít one to boast.
Donít worry Pacer fans Ė Iím not talking about a cockamamie trade between the Pacers and Suns. Things have been pretty bad, and unpredictable, in Indiana over the last eighteen months. Dealing Granger anywhere would send the Hoosier faithful out to pasture, further driving down the already league-low attendance at Conseco Fieldhouse.
If you havenít figured it out already, Iím talking about Granger heading to Phoenix next February to represent the Eastern Conference in the annual NBA All-Star game.
In just his third professional season Granger is averaging 18.2 points and 5.8 rebounds for the Pacers, who have struggled through a majority of the 2007-08 campaign. He is the teamís leading scorer and has spent a good part of the year shouldering the teamís leading role with both Jermaine OíNeal and Jamaal Tinsley on the shelf.
He has improved dramatically in each of his three seasons, including an incredible jump in production this year despite averaging just one additional minute of playing time. He is posting career-highs across the board, including impressive success rates from the foul line and behind the arc.
Granger is shooting 85.9% from the charity stripe, including an incredible run of 65 straight makes, which bested the franchise record of a certain Reggie Miller. He is also hitting 40.1% of his attempts from behind the three-point land, an eight percent increase over his rookie mark.
In addition to his offensive improvement, Granger has upped his defensive efforts for Indiana as well, something the Pacers desperately need the rest of its roster to do. While playing one of the most important roles in Jim OíBrienís fast-paced offense, Danny is focusing a majority of his time on the other side of the ball.
ďIím trying to improve on the defensive end right now. We are struggling on defense this season and I think thatís something that you can always improve upon,Ē Granger, who averages a steal and a block per game, said in New York earlier this month.
Humility is another impressive part of Grangerís repertoire, who despite leading the Pacers in scoring and attempting to lock down versatile opponents on the wing every night, forgoes talking about himself in favor of the team almost every time he opens his mouth.
When asked whether or not he was comfortable leading Indianaís offense with OíNeal and Tinsley injured, Granger had this to say: ďOur offense doesnít really focus on one person, itís a movement offense and guys just have to take advantages of opportunities that come up. With Jermaine out, everyone has to pick up the slack.Ē
While he does properly categorize the teamís offense, Granger is attempting a team-high 13.9 shots per game, more than even OíNeal when he has been healthy enough to play. The numbers indicate that he is the teamís top option, even if he chooses to shyly shrug off the notion of being Indianaís biggest offensive threat.
Like an every player not named LeBron, Granger does have some holes in his game. ďI could improve my ball-handling,Ē he admitted. Danny is averaging just 1.9 assists and turns the ball over 2.2 times per game, petty tallies when you consider the type of offense Indiana runs. Both OíBrien and Granger would love to bump that assist average up, while holding the miscues to a minimum.
Becoming more efficient with the ball in his hands, aside from his already strong move towards the basket, would give him an honest shot at earning an all-star nod in 2009. Itís not a knock on Granger, but playing in the East dramatically increases his chances of earning such an appearance.
It isnít difficult to imagine him leapfrogging guys like Rasheed Wallace, Caron Butler, Richard Hamilton or Ray Allen next season, especially if he continues his marked improvement.
ďI think if we turn this around and have a better season next year, Iíd have a decent chance of making the all-star team in Phoenix,Ē Granger admitted before a win over the Knicks on Feb. 6.
His quick hands should allow him to vastly improve his handle, and further develop his on-ball defense heading into the 2008-09 season.
The only things holding Granger back from appearing in Phoenix next February are the play of the struggling Pacers and his own modesty. However, more career-highs in 2009 would speak loudly enough for themselves.
Andrew Perna is a Senior Writer for RealGM.com. Feel free to contact him via e-mail (Andrew.Perna@RealGM.com) with comments and questions.