Who do you want your offense to run through with the game on the line? Counting down from 30th to 1st (one per team), I’ve ranked the League’s go-to guys…
DANNY GRANGER, Indiana Pacers
As much as fantasy owners love Granger, basketball sabermetricians hate him. Why such a divide between the two most stat-obsessed hoop fans on the landscape? Because Granger is living, breathing, buckets-getting proof that numbers don’t tell the entire story.
On paper, Granger’s 2010 follow-up to his ’09 breakout season wasn’t that bad. His scoring barely dropped a notch (24.1 ppg), his shooting accuracy wasn’t too far off (42% FG, 36% 3PA), his turnovers didn’t change (2.5 tpg), and his rebounding (5.5 rpg) and assists (2.8 apg) actually improved.
But ask anybody (like me) who watched most of Indiana’s games last season; Granger wasn’t the same player. His numbers didn’t change, but his impact wasn’t the same. Chalk it up to nagging injuries (he missed 20 games), defenses having a better scouting report, or lack of a quality supporting cast, but the Pacers’ silent assassin of ’09 spent 2010 producing more ER visits than death certificates.
And again, by the numbers didn’t always reflect what the eye could see. Granger technically didn’t take any more three-pointers last season than he did in his All-Star year, but from watching the Pacers you could tell he’d become increasingly stuck on his outside jumper (75 percent of FGA’s were jump shots, and 81 percent in clutch time). And while his free-throw attempts stayed the same as the previous season (6.9 per game), Granger appeared to be attacking the basket less often, or at least less often in crucial junctures of the game.
In crunch time, though, the stats do show Granger’s drop in productivity. According to 82games.com, Granger shot 25 percent from the field in “clutch time” — 4th quarter or overtime, 5 minutes or less on the clock, 5-point margin or less — and 16 percent beyond the arc. His 24.5 points per 48 minutes of clutch time was among the worst for players considered their team’s top option, as he ranked below backups like Will Bynum, role players like Rasual Butler, and rookies like Jonny Flynn.
Indiana won 36 games during Granger’s All-Star season, and lost of ton of close games down the stretch. Last season they won 32 games, and blowout losses were more frequent. That can’t be all put on Granger’s shoulders, and it’s not like I’m saying he’s a bad player all of a sudden. Granger is still one of the elite scorers in the League: Ask the Jazz, who saw him drop 44 points, 8 boards and 5 assists in a Pacers win; or the Thunder, who took 32 points, 7 boards and 3 steals in a 20-piecing; or the Rockets, who allowed Senor Buckets to light them up for 36, 7 boards and 3 steals in an Indy win.
Few forwards in the NBA can match Granger as a perimeter scorer. Whether spotting up, pulling up or driving, his offensive arsenal is the first thing opposing coaches must game-plan for when the Pacers pop up on the schedule. But instead of taking another step forward in his rise as an NBA star, Granger took a step back last season. It was a small step, however, one barely perceptible to the numbers-crunchers among us. Which at least means he doesn’t have far to go if he’s going to bounce back with another monster effort in 2011.
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20. John Salmons (Bucks)
21. Rudy Gay (Grizzlies)
22. Stephen Jackson (Bobcats)
23. Baron Davis (Clippers)
24. Ben Gordon (Pistons)
25. Andre Iguodala (76ers)
26. Yao Ming (Rockets)
27. Mo Williams (Cavaliers)
28. Brook Lopez (Nets)
29. Andrea Bargnani (Raptors)
30. Michael Beasley (Timberwolves)