The second half of the 2012-2013 NBA season is well underway, and now that we crossed the trade deadline, all the speculation of who’s moving can stop. From here on out, you’ll have to rely on the guys lining your depth chart. While some may be relieved that their favorite player wasn’t moved or that their team’s core wasn’t broken up, others may be worried that they don’t have enough to overcome the league’s top tier squads.
With a few changes to some key contenders and significant difference makers returning from injuries, the landscape is sure to get dicey as we move closer to the postseason. If the first half were any indication, we’re in for some drama-filled months ahead.
Here’s my take on the most important players as we chug along towards April.
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First Half Stats: 16.3 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 2.3 BPG
D12 has been the focal point of the relentless criticism directed at the Lakers’ sub-par first half. While he hasn’t been playing poor by any standards, he hasn’t had the impact that many thought he’d bring over from Orlando. From Kobe to columnists, many have voiced their dissatisfaction with Howard’s seemingly apathetic attitude on the court.
After a tumultuous few months in Lakerland that saw everything from hasty coaching changes to the death of their legendary owner Jerry Buss, the purple and gold now sit just three games out of the eighth seed. If they want to make a serious run at the final spot, and if Howard wants to refute his critics, the big man will have to return to his dominant form. At just 27, the athleticism should still be there, but the question of his dedication to victory still stands.
The Lakers front office also must decide what to do with Howard’s expiring contract. General Manager Mitch Kupchak has already made it clear that he wants Dwight to be the future of this team post-Kobe, but is that feeling mutual? It should be interesting to see how their negotiations develop in the coming months.
First Half Stats: N/A
With the emergence of All-Star Paul George as the new face of the Pacers franchise, Granger’s role with the team has been a huge question mark in the wake of his return from a knee injury. The Pacers have proven they’re a dangerous squad without contributions from their leading scorer of the past five seasons, so does Granger’s presence take Indiana to even greater heights, or will he spoil the chemistry that has powered the Pacers to the No. 2 spot in the East?
Granger’s best years are behind him. His scoring averages and field goal percentage have dropped each of the past four seasons, and when you couple that with the injuries he’s piled up over the years, you can assume he’s beginning to accept a new role in Indiana. If the Pacers can find a way for Granger to ease back into the rotation while still appeasing the budding star in George, Danny’s return makes this team a whole lot scarier.