The Pacers have something of a dilemma as they prepare to repeat their trip to the Eastern Conference Finals from 2013 and a Central Division title. Former All Star Danny Granger is returning after injuries knocked him out for most of the 2013 season. And, of course, that absence allowed Paul George to emerge and become an All Star himself.
So through all the trade rumors this summer about the Pacers possibly trading Granger and moving his expiring contract, the question becomes what happens if Granger comes back healthy. Does George step to the side?
Paul George's answer is no. The 23-year-old All Star from last year believes he feels he is the team's leader and "the man" after spending the summer at the Team USA Training Camp, and quite possibly throwing his hat into the ring to be on the 2014 World Cup squad. He told Michael Pointer of the Indianapolis Star that he feels confidence to be the center point of the team:
A lot comes with that. This whole summer, I really trained being the go-to guy and the lead guy for our team. Last year, we still had Danny and did not know the results (of Granger’s injury) coming into the year. I had a role that I had kind of prepared for and trained for. This year, it was more about training to be the No. 1 guy and lead this team.
After a breakout season that saw him win the Most Improved Player award, go to his first All-Star Game and lead his team to the Eastern Conference Finals, it is hard to think George would not feel that way. He averaged 17.4 points per game last season, going toe-to-toe with LeBron James in that seven-game series. Everyone has high expectations for George's continued growth.
The question is what the Pacers can do with Granger.
Granger is in the final year of his contract but has shown he can be a very strong player. In 2012, he averaged 18.7 points per game and 5.0 rebounds per game (right around his career averages). Granger still has the potential to be a solid defensive player. He is only 30 years old and can still be a solid contributor.
Maybe he is not a primary option like the Pacers migth have envisioned a few seasons ago. But he should still have value, at least in the trade market.
The writing appears to be on the wall for Granger. Because everyone, even Paul George himself, recognizes this is his team now.