Jan 18, 2013, 4:56 PM EDT
While Danny Granger has been sidelined with a knee injury all season, the Indiana Pacers have been forced to find a new identity (or at least clarify the one they have). They’ve evolved into the best defensive team in the league and they have found enough points most nights — Paul George has taken a step forward as the offensive catalyst while David West has played well.
Indiana has evolved into a better team, one that should be able to almost seamlessly slide Granger back into the fold, improve the offense and suddenly look like the second best team in the East.
When does that happen? There were some good signs this week, tweets Mike Wells of the Indy Star.
Danny Granger (knee) did shooting drills in shootaround today w next step being non-contact activities during team’s West Coast trip
— Mike Wells (@MikeWellsNBA) January 18, 2013
The plan still – barring any setbacks – is for Granger to return to the lineup in early February
— Mike Wells (@MikeWellsNBA) January 18, 2013
At 24-16 the Pacers have the third best record in the East. That despite scoring just 98 points per 100 possessions, 29th in the NBA. Think about that for a second — the second worst offense in the Association and their defense has them 8 games over .500.
They could use the guy that gave them 18.7 points a game last season and was their leading scorer in the playoffs. Granger gives the Pacers a guy who can create his own shot on the perimeter and that will be huge. He gives them an option late in the clock when nothing seems to be working to get a better look — plus he will draw defenders and create improved looks for others.
If the Pacers offense comes up to just the league average, that would give them 4 more points per 100 possessions. Their point differential — points scored vs. points allowed per 100 possessions — would jump to fifth best in the NBA, better than everyone in the East save Miami.
They have the length and the defensive discipline to give Miami as much trouble in the playoffs as anyone in the East, if they can just get their offense clicking. Maybe starting in early February.
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