Coach ‘em up, summer of 2010: Danny Granger
By thunderbird1245, on August 7th, 2010
This is the second edition of this series, as we look at ways some of our most important returning players can improve over the summer, and how perhaps the coaching staff can utilize them better to make them better individually, and our overall team better as whole.
The first in this series was a comprehensive look at Roy Hibbert, tonight we stay in the frontcourt and look at our most talented player, Danny Granger.
Granger is already a top 30 player or so in the NBA and is unquestionably our best player. As he begins to enter his prime, he has started on a path that will make him one of the better players in the history of the franchise from a scoring point of view, but all the points Granger scores for us to this point haven’t led us to significant success in terms of wins and losses. In the world of an NBA player, at some point to be considered truly great a player has to become a significant driving force into making his team win. As of yet, Granger has yet to be able to do that, for whatever reason. Obviously many many factors are at fault here, but the question Granger has to be asking himself this summer is this: What can I do, what can I improve….to make MY TEAM better?
Let’s take a look at my suggestions, and hopefully generate a great discussion about Granger’s game as it currently stands, and where it needs to get to to maximize our success as a team.
Granger has become not just a good, but an extremely good three point weapon playing for a staff that obviously emphasizes that very aspect. Granger is one of the best “snipers” in the league from beyond the arc, getting shots in a variety of ways both in transition and in the halfcourt.
Having said that in my view the 3 point shot has become too much of his overall game, and our staffs love affair with the 3 point shot in my opinion has had some negative effect on his develop early in his career.
Simply put, Granger isn’t hard enough to guard, takes too many of what I consider “bad” three point shots, and doesn’t have as much variety in his game as we need him to have to be successful. Despite his gaudy numbers, Granger’s points don’t necessarily help you win, due to the way he seems to get them with an over-reliance on the 3 point shot, and the jump shot in general. For him to become a player on the next level up in both talent and achievement, that needs to change.
Granger needs more variety in his game, and the coaching staff needs to quit being intellectually lazy and make him score in a more variety of ways, ways that make his teammates better and the team more successful. The way Granger played the game last year, his presence on the court mattered little in terms of whether we played well or not, or whether we won games or not. What greater indictment of your best player and how he is used can you have?
These are some things I see :
-Granger needs to take the ball to the basket much more often. While an outstanding percentage shooter, his success in that area is almost a hindrance to our overall team success. Granger catches the ball way too often with “lazy legs”, which is my term for not having his knees flexed and low, ready to drive on a catch, or at least getting quickly into a triple threat position. He is too straight up with the basketball.
Being too straight up kills him when he does drive, as his dribble is too high and lets defenders be able to slide their feet and bother his bounce. It is extremely hard to start too high and then get lower as you are driving, so particular attention has got to be paid by Danny to get low AS THE BALL IS IN THE AIR COMING TOWARD HIM. As defenders are then rushing to close out on him, he will be one step quicker than he is currently, and that can be the difference in getting by the defender or being shut down.
-A major major flaw in the Pacers winning and losing is the free throw differential. As a team we foul alot, and don’t get fouled enough. Granger is a major cause for this, as he settles for jumpers when he should put the ball on the deck and attack more often.
The one player we have other than Hibbert who has the talent to increase his foul shot attempts it is Granger. It is a vital key to offensive success to get to the line, and Granger has to get there more often, it simply has to be done.
To do that, he has to be “harder to guard”. Way too stationary, Granger is easy to find for a defender. Our staff has to make Granger move himself more than he naturally does by calling and designing plays that force him to do that. Our staff needs to not pigeon hole him so much, and move him around to take advantage of all of his offensive gifts. Running him off more screens and in more pick and roll situations (EVEN IF IT IS NOT HIS STRONGSUIT) will give him chances to have a step advantage on a catch, which should give him some driving opportunities he doesn’t get currently.
-It is IMPERATIVE I feel for this coaching staff to put Granger on the low block and force him to develop a back to the basket game. This will make him a much tougher matchup than he is now, and will really expand his game.
I think Granger already is a good back to the basket player, we just never see him in there. He has good footwork, good hands, and a very good touch. It is easy in my mind’s eye to see him developing a great turnaround fadeaway move, plus all the basic power post moves that he can use against smaller defenders.
He doesn’t naturally go to the post, so the staff is going to need to force him to get in there, both in emphasis and on play design. Basically, if Hibbert is out of the game (and sometimes even when he is), I think Granger has got to be a weapon in the paint offensively. He has had success in the paint with his back to the basket in spurts, we need to be smart and get him in there much more.
-As mentioned above, we need to use him more as A SCREENER in pick and roll/pick and pop basketball. Granger may lack the passing skills to be a ball handler in a screen/roll, but he can be a major weapon as the screener I think, because no one will be able to help off him much.
-We need to screen more for him away from the ball, and force teams to switch to help him get an advantage. And we need Granger himself to screen more for his teammates.
In other words, we need to actually have MOTION in our “motion” offense where Granger is concerned. Boston does a great job with Paul Pierce offensively (a player I have compared Granger with for years, and I still do) with using complicated screen action involving Pierce in all sorts of ways to help him get a step on the defense, instead of just making him be stationary and throwing him the ball in a position where the defense knows exactly where he is. We need to take a page out of the Doc Rivers playbook and use Granger with much more sophistication.
Remember this truism always: A player on the move rebounds better than a player who is stationary.
One of the by products of forcing Granger to move more and in a greater variety of ways is that his offensive rebounds should increase, as he will be closer to the areas where offensive rebounds occur. Standing stationary 25 feet from the basket launching a three pointer is counter productive to offensive rebounding anyway, so while we don’t want to eliminate the bomb from Granger’s game, we do have to expect him to increase his offensive rebounding prowess if forced to be a better and more relentless cutter.
We need as a staff to use Granger as our primary post feeder, which in reality we already do. But as a greater emphasis needs to be put on pounding the ball to Hibbert, so too does the need to get Granger to move more after he feeds the ball inside. The concept of “relocating” after a ball is passed to the post is something other Pacers do better than Granger, who tends to like to stand and survey the festivities. That can’t be allowed to continue. He needs to either cut through, go screen, or move somewhere else, because Hibbert I think will become very shortly an offensive weapon teams will be forced to double team. A powerful 2 man game between our 2 current franchise cornerstones needs to start developing, and it will if we make a commitment to get the ball to Hibbert thru Granger. If we are constantly forced to use others to feed the ball inside instead of Granger, that hurts our offense in a variety of ways.
Here is a big elephant in the room that no one talks about enough: Danny Granger ROUTINELY TAKES AWFUL SHOTS. He makes some of them, but many times his quick trigger hurts our team more than the stats show. Granger needs to be more selective, no matter what our coaching staff currently may think.
A quickly clanged bomb by Granger kills us at crucial times I think. He seems to have no sense of the game situation, instead just randomly firing away thinking ANY shot he takes must be a GOOD shot. As much criticism as Murphy takes, Granger hurts us much more in shot selection I think. Danny needs to think the game more I feel. He needs to say to himself “Ok, we haven’t scored in 2 straight possessions, let’s really get a great shot here”, or “Hibbert hasn’t touched the ball in 5 straight trips, let me see if I can get it to him this time and play off him”, or “we’ve missed 20 foot jumpers on 5 straight trips, I need to pass up this jumper and take it to the rim”, or “my man is in foul trouble, I think I’ll take him inside and post him up”.
Those are the thoughts and signs of progress I was hoping to see in Granger by now, but sadly I don’t see it enough. Granger can do anything he sets out to do as an offensive player I think, but he has morphed into this stand outside, shot chucking perimeter guy that I think is just a small percentage of what he can be.
That has to change to make Granger a player who truly helps you win, instead of just a guy who puts up numbers on bad teams.
Granger has to make more of a commitment to the defensive end instead of becoming another guy who scores 25 and gives up close to that. Granger has all the tools to be a strong defender, but it simply is effort I think that prevents this from happening, along with admittedly a sometimes wacky defensive scheme and poor defenders around him as well.
The bottom line though is this: defense isn’t IMPORTANT enough to Granger yet, so therefore as the de facto leader of this team it hasn’t been important enough to the team as a whole.
Granger isn’t good enough to be a guy who scores major points and guards the best player on the opponent, I realize that. Only the uber stars can do that….the LBJ’s, Wade’s, or Kobe Bryant types of which Granger decidedly isn’t.
But with the game on the line in the last 5 minutes, or win a guy is simply killing us in the middle of a game, I WANT TO SEE GRANGER MAN UP, take the responsibility of winning on his shoulders, and step up and guard the opponents best guy and shut him down. Even if he fails at it, I want to see him grow a sack and take on the challenge. Right now he shrinks into the background and hides defensively all throughout a game, and you simply cannot build a winning team if your best player does that on you.
The last thing I would definitely do is somewhat controversial, but I don’t care. After alot of thought about this team and it’s current roster and situation, I’d make the following roster/lineup decision:
1. Start Hibbert 82 games
2. Start Granger 82 games at the 4 position
3. Bring Troy Murphy off the bench.
For the purposes of this article, lets only look at what I think are the advantages to this in terms of using Granger better:
-Gives him a quickness advantage offensively over almost every “4″ player in the league.
-This quickness advantage should let him be able to beat more people more often off the dribble.
-Forces us to have to use him in the paint more frequently offensively, which I want to do no matter who is guarding him.
-Gives him a bigger and slower guy to match up with instead of a quicker and smaller player, normally keeping him closer to the goal to defensive rebound better, but to also hit the offensive glass more frequently.
-Makes it easier to use him as a screener AND as a ballhandler in pick and roll plays, as he will be able to drive on bigger players, and be hard to close out on if we run “pick and pop” stuff.
-Gives us 1 more ballhandler and post feeder on the floor to pressure the defense, and to give Hibbert more room to operate inside.
-Lets us pressure the basketball more, and helps our overall defense by making us quicker and more athletic.
-Forces us to use Granger in a smorgasboard of ways, which we need to do to get him out of the comfort zone he has fallen into.
I’m not saying play him as the second biggest guy on the floor 100% of the time, but I would start the game, start the second half, and end the game with him at that spot. I think the positives far out weigh the negatives with this way of thinking (though I admit there are negatives, and I don’t necessarily see it as a long term solution years down the road).
Lastly, I do believe in Bill Simmons view of the concept of “reps”, meaning that in sports experiencing things DOES MATTER. Where Granger is concerned, that means this: Granger I feel is closely becoming a player who is getting USED TO LOSING. That is a major concern for me. We need to get him used to winning, and have it become a central focus of his athletic life. Losing can be contagious no question, and he has never really won big at any level that I can recall.
Granger needs playoff reps badly, and needs to finally grasp the concept of being the guy who is responsible for winning and losing. He needs to own our results, for better or worse. If that means sacrificing shots or points or playing time or playing a different position, then he needs to embrace that and make it happen.
If he is ever going to become a leader, this is the time to do that. I have high hopes he makes the USA team this August, just so he can be around a winning culture for once, and hopefully he likes the taste of winning that leaves on his tongue. For a team and a franchise dying for a leader in the lockerroom and in the media, this is his time to either take the helm or forever forfeit the right I think. I think Granger wants to win, and I think he is a good citizen….but I don’t see the HUNGER, the DESPERATION, the FANATACISM, the SINGLE MINDEDNESS, that winning in a losing culture will take.
I need to see Granger step up and become the winner we need him to be. It has to be his duty and his responsibility to wear the hat for this team, be willing to say and do and sacrifice whatever he needs to in order to create wins where he can….to not settle for being very good, but to do what he needs to to become better than that, and inspire others around him. He hasn’t done that yet, but a golden opportunity awaits him once again this season to make it happen.
As always, the above is just my opinion.