Is There Hope or Doubt for Danny Granger's Season with Miami Heat?
This is a typical way to lead into a story that purports to explain why we’re all wrong—that Granger was misguidedly downgraded, that he’s due for a comeback of grand proportions with the Miami Heat and that he’s about to make us all look foolish.
This isn’t that kind of story, though. In this case, Granger’s been written off largely because he’s been pretty lousy lately and is likely to stay that way.
After missing all but five games in 2012-13 and not beginning his 2013-14 campaign until December due to patellar tendinosis, Granger was bad last season. He was roughly as bad as was reported—a report crystalized succinctly by SB Nation’s Satchel Price after the veteran was acquired and then promptly bought out, by the moribund Philadelphia 76ers at the trade deadline:
Playing 22.5 minutes per game, [Granger] seemed to struggle adapting to a different role [with the Indiana Pacers], averaging just 8.3 points per game on 36-percent shooting. He never seemed to fit with head coach Frank Vogel’s offensive schemes, and couldn’t possibly match his younger teammates on the defensive end.
Granger was scooped up by the Los Angeles Clippers after Philadelphia released him, after which he proceeded to do nothing of consequence in 12 regular-season appearances, before averaging 2.6 points a night in 10.3 minutes over the course of two playoff series.
He finished the 2013-14 regular season with 8.2 points on 37.8 percent shooting—both the lowest marks of his career outside of his five-game 2012-13 season. His win shares per 48 minutes, according to Basketball-Reference.com, was 0.073—27 percent below league average and, again, the lowest figure of his career, save the year that preceded it.
The facts of the matter were stark and plain. After two seasons effectively lost to injury, a formerly very good basketball player had collapsed into an aging, damaged mediocrity. It was clear Granger was on the way out.
So, of course, the Heat signed him to a two-year contract.
This, at the time, was more defensible than it seems now.
For starters, the Heat only committed $4.25 million to Granger over two seasons—not a substantial investment for a player with his resume.
Miami also came to verbal terms with Granger—and Josh McRoberts—before LeBron James decamped for his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. But while McRoberts is a rising player whose appeal to the Heat wasn’t entirely yoked to LeBron, that doesn’t seem to be the case with Granger.
With LeBron, Granger would have made some sense on the Heat roster: a buy-low investment who comes from a winning program and can shoot the basketball. The 6’8”, 225-pound small forward is a career 38 percent shooter from three-point range who finished in the top 10 in threes made each season between 2007-08 and 2011-12.
Perimeter players get good looks when LeBron is on the floor, tilting the defensive attention his way. Even with diminished athleticism, it figures Granger could have been an effective outside threat in a part-time role in a LeBron-led Heat attack. If the shots were open, he could knock them down.
It won’t be that easy in Miami this season, though. Not only will Granger now have the burden of creating shots—and it’s very doubtful he has the skip in his step to do this any longer—he’ll also likely be playing a larger role in the Miami offense.
It’s difficult to be too optimistic about Granger returning to his All-Star form. While he averaged 25.8 points a night as recently as 2008-09, on an efficient 58.4 true shooting percentage—per Basketball-Reference.com—the odds of him ever producing near that level again seem long.
Beyond just his problematic injury history, his age is a concern. According to research by Dave Berri of The Wages of Wins Journal, and replicated by others, NBA players peak around 25 or 26, dip a bit as they near 30 and then fall off precipitously at 32. Granger will turn 32 this season.
And his injuries aren’t fully behind him either. At the Heat’s media day, Granger told the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson that he had arthroscopic surgery in his knee during the offseason and still isn’t at full strength. The forward said he’s making progress, but he’s working his way back:
It’s making sure it’s there before I go out and try to make some move and my muscle is not strong enough and something happens to my knee. We don’t want to burn me out through training camp and the preseason. I’m doing everything fully now. Every day I’m getting a little stronger.
Granger added that he nearly reconsidered his verbal agreement to join the Heat after LeBron left, but ultimately thought better of it. His reasons weren’t entirely basketball-related.
“We have a dock behind our house,” he told reporters. “[I] can go fishing with my son.”
If Granger sounds like a player who’s thinking as much about retirement as he is during the 2014-15 season, that’s probably because he is.
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