For now, the only thing tying James Harden and Paul George together are impressive All-Star debuts coming off the benches of their respective conference. Harden had 15 points, including a sweet dish to former teammate Russell Westbrook, six rebounds, and three assists. George had an even more impressive showing, posting 17 points, four assists, three rebounds, and two steals, and was relied on by East coach Erik Spoelstra in crunch time.
If trade rumors hold true, Harden and George might soon be tied by another thing: Danny Granger.
The forward out of New Mexico has consistently been an important piece in the Indiana Pacers yellow-and-blueprint, especially considering that he’s been their leading scorer in an otherwise offense-adverse team. But a nagging knee issue, which has sidelined him most of this year, could have diminished his pedigree in The Hoosier State. With George emerging as a future top-15 player hopeful, the fears that Granger’s days are numbered in Indy have only strengthened.
Amid those fears are rumors that the Houston Rockets, home of The Bearded One, are interested in taking on Granger’s skillset. The Rockets look to be playoff-bound, but still lack the adequate parts to be a realistic threat in the West (even with a “Fear the Beard” mentality).
Currently ranked as the number two offense in the league (106 points per game), Houston could become an offensive juggernaut if Danny joins the storied Houston franchise. Averaging 18.2 PPG, 2.0 APG, and 5.0 RPG over his career, he would be an asset to any team with a positional need. He plays well on and off the dribble, and serves well as a spot-up shooter for an offense that relies a lot on Harden and Lin’s playmaking. Lin could also do with more pressure taken off his shoulders (unless the situation involves NY and a D’Antoni offense).
Despite a bad reputation, Granger is also not a bad defender. Last year, without him on the floor, the Pacers allowed 105.7 per 100 possessions compared to 102.2 when on the hardwood. Over time he has also taken it upon himself to verbally check opponents’ best players, as he confronted both Lebron and Wade in last year’s playoffs.
An addition of Granger would mean Houston would either have to part with Chandler Parsons, or see his minutes and growth diminished while playing alongside Granger. Both scenarios don’t seem all that likely. Parsons is currently averaging 14.5 PPG, 3.7 APG, 5.6 RPG, and there’s a very good chance he’ll have a better career than Granger.
Many game executives still believe that Granger will be packing his bags this season, but Donnie Walsh, Indiana president of basketball operations, remains adamant that “they’ll [as in Granger and George] make it work because they’re both at a high level.” That is, George will shift over to his natural position as shooting guard, and will be a great complimentary piece to Granger. Both players have the ability to create for themselves and for each other, and can serve as a watered down version of the James-Wade duo.
One of Indiana’s greatest concerns is its bench, which will be partially resolved when current starting two-guard Lance Stephenson moves to the reserves upon Granger’s return. With enough time and resolve, the Pacers can pull the rug from underneath Miami’s high-flying feet. Pacers management know this, and will most definitely hold on to Granger.
Therefore, Granger will be playing with George and not Harden. George’s emergence hasn’t made Granger expendable, it’s made Indiana expandable.