The general NBA fandom has caught onto the fact that the Indiana Pacers are, in fact, a pretty decent team. But it wasn’t always that way. For the last handful of seasons, Indiana has been buried in that odd purgatory where they either just made the playoffs (with zero chance of winning a series) or just missed them (with zero chance of winning the lottery), and that’s a hard place to be for an NBA team.
Just ask Danny Granger, who has been looked upon as the team’s primary scorer every year since Jermaine O’Neal left Indianapolis in 2008. He’s always scored well, but not necessarily efficiently, often forcing up bad shots because he felt like he had to in order to give his team a reasonable chance to win every night.
“I haven’t shot the ball particularly well, but it hasn’t caused us to lose games,” Granger, who has shot a brutal 17-for-68 (25%) over his last five games, told HOOPSWORLD. “That’s awesome because in the past, that would’ve definitely lost us the game. Thankfully this year that’s not the case.”
Actually, the entire team has had its fair share of offensive woes early this season, but despite everything they’re still 6-2, good enough for the third-best winning percentage in the Eastern Conference. Granger knows his teammates’ roles in the strong start.
“We’re shooting something like 38% as a team, so it’s good to have that extra offensive support that we haven’t had in past seasons. I was always the one that had to score, but this year I score when I’m needed to.”
With seven different players currently averaging double figures for Indiana, it’s clear that this is a very different Pacers team from a year ago.
Part of that change has been on the defensive end, which Pacers coach Frank Vogel has noticed, particularly in his starting small forward.
“He’s defending,” Vogel said regarding Granger. “He’s brought his defense at a really high level all season, all seven games that we’ve played. He’s a huge reason we’re defending so well as a team.”
Granger admitted his extra tenacity on that end has everything to do with the energy he saves not dominating the ball on offense every possession.
“My defense has been really great because I know I don’t have to score 25 points a game,” Granger said. “I get to focus more on the defensive end. I’m honestly having one of the best defensive years I’ve ever had so far.”
With Granger shooting so poorly, and David West still finding his way with the new team and his surgically-repaired knee, it’s a small miracle that Indiana is playing this well early on. Granger, though, doesn’t want anyone to think that he’s going to back off on offense.
“My aggressiveness is still there,” he admitted. “We just have more scoring threats, and that’s a blessing.”
It will really seem like a blessing when the team gets firing on all cylinders. Outside of Miami and Chicago, this might be the best team in the Eastern Conference. Granger’s role might be changing drastically, but that’s a good thing when the team does nothing but get better.
Four seasons ago, Granger believed the team went as he did. Now, the team goes as the team goes, and that’s a good thing for the new Indiana Pacers.