The headline of The Indianapolis Star's Sports section the morning after draft day in 2005 read, "PLEASANT SURPRISE, GRANGER IS A PACER." Danny Granger was picked at 17, and was a gleam of hope for a team coming off a disasterous season.
Looking back at Danny Granger's sophomore season, Al Harrington was brought back from Atlanta, and was expected to play next to Jermaine O'Neal for "One of the strongest frontcourts in all the NBA." This meant for Granger that he would have to come off the bench for Harrington, even after showing us some nice play late in his rookie season.
We all know the story of how that season played off, Harrington, Stephen Jackson, and Sarunas Jasikevicius were traded to Golden State for Mike Dunleavy, Jr., Troy Murphy, Ike Diogu, and Keith McCleod. This trade for Granger was a blessing in disguise.
After the trade, Danny moved up permanently into the starting lineup along with newly-aqquired Dunleavy and Murphy thus ending a sub-par season, riddled with losing streaks and injuries to Jermaine O'Neal and Jamaal Tinsley. The Pacers missed the playoffs for the first time in eight years, finishing 41-41.
The 2007-2008 season started with the Pacers playing really good ball. But again, injuries to key players (O'Neal, Diogu) slowed the team down, and the Pacers were playing sub-.500 ball.
Around the Spring of 2008, the team started to sync, even with the absence of Jermaine O'Neal and Jamaal Tinsley, still out with injuries. Granger and Dunleavy took it upon themselves to make a run at the playoffs, unfortunately shying the final seed by one game to Atlanta. Granger averaged 19.6 points per game, up from 13 the prior year. Dunleavy finished slightly below Danny with an average of 19.1 points per game.
Towards the end of the 2007-2008 season, Danny Granger had a string of 3 straight games where he scored in the mid-thirties (30, 37, 35 respectively) helping the Pacers gain a playoff spot. Not only that, but he averaged 24.7 points in the last 10 games of the season. The talk around sports' networks and internet sites, and the fans stated that the best of Danny Granger is yet to come...
New faces and a new attitude surrounded the beginning of the 2008-2009 season, and the Pacers finished off a (stronger than expected) preseason after getting aquainted with one another on the court. Mike Dunleavy had missed almost the first half of the season, which left Granger the lone scoring threat on this fresh Pacers squad.
Danny started off the season putting up 33 points against Detroit in the season opener loss, and scoring 20 after getting his teeth busted out by acting as a cushion to Paul Pierce while diving for a loose ball during the home opener, giving Boston their first loss of the season. (Danny continued to play on with a big cheese, but no pearly-whites.)
Since then, Granger has been a scoring threat, averaging 25.5 points per game, and has finally found that he has other dimensions to his play. He is second in team rebounds, with 5.1 per game, and has 1.4 blocks per game. Danny has also hit the 30 point mark 10 times this season with two of them being a career-high 42 points, and 41 points.
Looking back at prior drafts, number 17 doesn't always get you a superstar, let alone a player that is staying in the top-five in scoring. (There are a few exceptions to this, but not many.) Calling Danny Granger a steal could be an understatement, but only time will tell.
Pleasant surprise, indeed.