by Charles Peach / @Charles_Peach
There’s a good reason why Danny Granger ranks higher on this list than some of his contemporaries playing small forward and it’s all in the name: G-range-r.
The three-point arc is his friend and you must respect it. Granger hit at least four threes in 58 of his last 209 games. He’s been in the top eight in scoring the last two seasons, including finishing fifth in ‘08-09. That season he won Most Improved Player as his scoring average jumped from 19.6 in ‘07-08 to 25.8 points per game.
While guys like Andre Iguodala and Gerald Wallace standout for their defense, Granger is an offensive stud. Iggy and Crash make a living because of guys like Granger. It takes a freakishly talented defender to stifle a 6-9 sharpshooter.
Make no mistake though; Granger is no slouch on defense. The man who once lost both central incisors while going for a steal on Paul Pierce, can play defense tenaciously. For his career he averages one steal and one block per game.
Some say he doesn’t always exert a strong effort on defense. I’d argue that it isn’t easy to lead your team on both ends of the floor when you have below-average supporting casts. I mean, look at Kobe. He made All-Defensive First Team in each of the last five seasons with hounds on his team such as Trevor Ariza and Ron Artest to shoulder much of the on-ball defensive assignments. Not to mention bigs like Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom to bail him out if he’s beaten. I think Kobe is a terrific defender, but his teammates make it a lot easier for him. For Granger, there is tremendous pressure on him to lead on offense and defense and there isn’t nearly as much room for error.
Granger was a member of the Gold-medal winning Team USA this summer in the FIBA World Championships. Iguodala and Rudy Gay got more minutes than him, but I think that’s because they were a better fit for what Coach K wanted from the small forward position. He wanted a Pippen to his Jordan – Kevin Durant. Iggy and Gay provided the Pippen-esque qualities on defense and in transition. Durant played the role of MJ, taking over every game without any other player needing to consistently score. Though he isn’t as good as Durant, Granger is that type of player. He can assume his team’s scoring duties, usually by firing away from downtown much like Durant did in Turkey.
What can Granger do to improve?
Even though he battled injuries, last season was a step back. His scoring average dipped along with his shooting percentage. He got a bit too comfortable hoisting the three-ball. If he stays healthy and attacks the basket more, he’ll be much more Grangerous this season. (You like that, right? … No? … OK. Fine.) Again, he’ll need help from his mates. There are some new faces around that he might be able to depend on this season. The Pacers landed Darren Collison, a talented point guard with a high ceiling, in a trade with New Orleans. Rookies Paul George and Lance Stephenson also have promising potential. Granger would certainly benefit if Roy Hibbert or Tyler Hansbrough can emerge, as well.
|SLAMonline TOP 50 PLAYERS||OVERALL RANK||POSITION RANK|
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’10-11 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jeremy Bauman, Maurice Bobb, Erildas Budraitis, Sean Ceglinsky, Ben Collins, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Manny Maduakolam, Eddie Maisonet, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Charles Peach, Branden Peters, Quinn Peterson, David Schnur, Todd Spehr, Kyle Stack, Adam Sweeney, Dennis Tarwood, Tracy Weissenberg, Lang Whitaker, Eric Woodyard, and Nima Zarrabi.
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