Top 50: Danny Granger, no. 21

by October 01, 2009

by Tzvi Twersky

After sifting through comments on this site, a handful of thoughts crystallized in my mind. One, however, grew into a much bigger stone than the others, and is apropos for me to regurgitate it in this post. The thought: You guys, readers and writers alike (hell, I’ll even include myself in there), do not Danny Grangergive Danny Granger near as much credit as he deserves.

Coming off a season in which he put up close to 26 ppg, 5 rpg, a block and a steal a game, you’d think this wouldn’t be true. You’d think that everyone would agree that Danny “Batman” Granger is a top-25 player in the L. You’d think wrong.

For reasons known and unknown to me, people are still sleeping on Danny Granger’s game.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the “known” reasons he’s not given the credit that’s due:

—Location, location, location: An empty Conseco Fieldhouse and a lack of nationally televised games makes it difficult for casual fans to keep up with Granger and the Pacers. If Danny played in L.A., New York, Boston, Philly—really anywhere but Indiana—there’s no doubt that he’d be sifting through endorsement offers and potential magazine covers at this point in his career.

—Style over substance: Even when you do watch Danny, his game doesn’t grab your attention. A variety of Js, floaters and corkscrew drives aren’t as sexy as some lesser players rocking the rim or knocking down deep threes. Because of this understated style, he’s not on SportsCenter’s Top 10 too often, and therefore he’s not on your screen too often.

—Lack of a proper pedigree: Prior to entering the NBA, Granger played college ball at Bradley and, later, the University of New Mexico. And while he put up steel-solid numbers there, they weren’t mind-blowing. Coupled with his lack of NCAA Tourney exposure (he played in March, but barely), only true fiends knew and appreciated Danny’s game then. Free of national ink and your attention, Danny quietly slipped to the Pacers at No. 17 in the Draft. And that’s where he plays now, still unwatched by the masses.

As far as I can tell, these are three major reasons behind the deep sleep on Granger. Looking at them, they’re all kind of valid…if you’re not a true fan of hoops. With LeaguePass and broadband broadcasts of games available online, I implore you, watch Granger play a few times. Focus on him and solely him. It’s worth a few hours of your time. Why? Because Danny Granger’s earned your undivided attention. Here’s how:

—Respect due: Coming up in one of the toughest sections in Louisiana, without his mother around no less, Danny’s father kept him off the streets by building a little hoop next to their crib. Night after night, year after year, that hoop kept Danny on the straight and narrow, and eventually led to his making it to college. Suffice to say, with or without your attention, Danny’s come a distance. But if you don’t like a good story, feel free to continue ignoring this one.

—He got game: Even at face value, Granger’s stats garner heaps of respect. Dig deeper though. Playing in only 67 games, DG led all SF’s—from Tayshaun Prince to LeBron “King” James—in blocks per game (1.45), and more impressively in total blocks (97). Imagine if he would’ve played in all 82 contests. On the offensive end, Danny finished fourth in the L in threes made, again, while missing almost a quarter of the season. At 6-8 plus a little, Danny has a shot that guards would die for, and snuff totals that bigs would like to call their own. Thrown in a steal a game and 5 boards, Danny may be one of the most versatile players you’ve never seen.

—Ethics of our fathers: A lot of players sit on their game, happy with where it’s at. Not Danny. According to teammates, coaches and players League-wide, Danny is one of the hardest working players in the L. It shows, too.  Last year Danny Granger became the first player in the history of the League to up his scoring average by five-plus points a game for the third straight year. With a work ethic like that, his game will be polished to a spit-shine real soon.

—Clutch as h-e-ll: Some players play well when games are out of reach, or before they get to heated, not Danny, though. Aside from hitting a game-winner against Phoenix this past winter, he has a tendency to go bananas in big games and in tight spots. After making his first All-Star team this year, look for Danny to make, give or take, eight to ten more.

There you have it: Tzvi’s take on why Danny belongs right where he is on this list. After all my arguments pro-DG why don’t I think he should be higher? Because at the end of the day, all respect given, Granger doesn’t have that game. Remember, the top 15 or so players in the A are the best of the best. Not only do they work hard, they have vast seas of natural skill, and highlights worth of flashy buckets. They’re not good at multiple things, they’re great at them. Danny’s just a little slow on his feet, or two inches to short, either one, to be in that league. But he’s as close as he can be.

Bottom-lining it, Danny Granger may not be of the same caliber as a Dwyane Wade or Kevin Durant, but he’s damn close. But since the man’s averaging 25-5-1-1 with no one watching, does he even rate?

You may still disagree, but I think so.

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’09-10 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Brett Ballantini, Russ Bengtson, Toney Blare, Shannon Booher, Myles Brown, Franklyn Calle, Gregory Dole, Emry DowningHall, Jonathan Evans, Adam Fleischer, Jeff Fox, Sherman Johnson, Aaron Kaplowitz, John Krolik, Holly MacKenzie, Ryne Nelson, Chris O’Leary, Ben Osborne, Alan Paul, Susan Price, Sam Rubenstein, Khalid Salaam, Kye Stephenson, Adam Sweeney, Vincent Thomas, Tzvi Twersky, Justin Walsh, Joey Whelan, Eric Woodyard, and Nima Zarrabi.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.