The Indiana Pacers are 32-21, the third seed in the Eastern Conference and considered one of the only teams that have a shot at challenging the Miami Heat for a trip to the Finals. They have accomplished all this without last year’s leading scorer, Danny Granger.
Granger has missed the entire season with a knee injury but is expected to return in the next week. Originally it was thought that he would be back for Wednesday’s game against the New York Knicks, but it looks like it will be just a little bit longer.
The Pacers lead the league in points allowed but are 28th in points per game, surely having Granger back would be a big help.
With Granger out of the lineup, the Pacers have been starting Lance Stephenson in his place. Stephenson has filled in admirably but he is not exactly lighting it up. Theoretically, plugging in Granger and moving Stephenson to the bench makes the Pacers a much better team offensively.
This would be a much easier move if the Pacers were hovering around .500, but they are not. They are thriving with Granger out of the lineup. Obviously you cannot waste a player that talented by only playing him a few minutes a game. But the Pacers and head coach Frank Vogel will be toying with the old adage, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The Pacers will have a little bit of time to make their decision. With Granger returning after not playing a minute all season, he is going to need some time to return to full strength. I imagine we will see him off the bench for at least a couple games before they will need to make a long-term decision.
For Stephenson, this will be a tough pill to swallow. The Pacers will have to tell him, “Hey, you’ve been starting and playing great for us all season, but you were really just a placeholder until Granger came back. Now you’re coming off the bench. Thanks pal.”
If Stephenson can accept a new role and understand that the best interest of the team is in mind, then things could work out perfectly. But NBA players have big egos and it could be a huge shot to his confidence, messing with the team’s chemistry.
Basically, there is no clear-cut answer to this problem and the Pacers will be walking a tight rope for the remainder of the season. Any mistake they make could be extremely detrimental to the team. Step carefully.
Image: USA Today