Monday, January 31, 2011

You Can Call Me a Dreamer but I'm Not the Only One

Warning: the following is something I'm completely making up and theorizing. It has no basis in fact or any truth whatsoever. Consider it very (and I mean very) wishful thinking.

Jim O'Brien was canned over the weekend from his Indiana Pacers gig. The Pacers are a meddling 17-27, have some decent talent, but are stuck without any sort of plan. I know, you don't come here to read about the Indiana Pacers. And Kelly Dwyer wraps it up way better than I ever could. I bring this up to make some wild connections -- this firing could open the door for Danny "The Park Ranger" Granger to be put on the trading block. Here's another dot to connect. Sasha Pavlovic is not returning to finish out the season with Dallas. That means the Mavericks have another roster spot. Could that be used for a blockbuster trade! Maybe. Or more likely used for roster flexibility when the injured Roddy Beaubois comes back into the fold as Tim MacMahon notes. But I'm not here to write about coherent, rational thoughts, dammit.

With O'Brien's firing, Larry Bird is obviously trying to salvage a mediocre season with stealing a playoff spot. You have seen how awful the East is right? He's also trying to duplicate the Charlotte Bobcats plan of firing the head coach, get the temporary boost and try to coast to that 7th or 8th seed. I could go on all day how horrible a plan this is and how in the NBA especially, you need to either be rebuilding or a contender. Grabbing onto the bottom of the playoff barrel is about the worst thing you can do in the NBA year after year. If you aren't close to contending, you need to fall into the lottery, pick up some talent, clear cap space and completely rebuild. Larry Bird has yet to realize this with the Pacers. Granger was picked 17th overall in 2005 and for what he's done so far, that's great value. But Bird was fooled into believing he already had his franchise cornerstone, disregarding the bad teams Granger was scoring on. Granger scored enough that the Pacers haven't picked higher than 10 since he was drafted. Instead the Pacers were stuck with another 17, an 11, 13 and some 10s. Remember, after Oklahoma City drafted Kevin Durant in 2007, they had three more top five picks follow him in Jeff Green, Russel Westbrook and James Harden. The Thunder had some pretty miserable years before breaking out in the playoffs last year. But that's what it takes.

Anyway, back to how this deals with the Mavericks. If the firing of O'Brien doesn't inspire the Pacers to rip off their next five or six games, or go 8-2 over their next 10, maybe Bird will finally get it into his head that he messed up, and it's time for a clean slate (again, considering the history, this is a big maybe.) He has a team that is full of complementary players with specific roles. They're missing a Kobe, LeBron, Howard or Dirk (which I know are hard to find, but I digress). If Bird wants to do it the right way, he needs to move Granger and watch his team free-fall to some consecutive top-three picks. For all the faults that Bird has had as a man in charge of basketball operations, he's had some good success in the first round of the draft. Danny Granger, Tyler Hansborough, Paul George are all very competent NBA players that could easily slide right into a contending team's rotation. Now that the Mavericks have an open roster spot, Alexis Ajinca's trade exemption, Caron Butler's expiring contract and young talent in Roddy Beaubois and Dominique Jones, could make a push to get Granger, if the Pacer's finally decide to wave the white flag.

And Granger would be an almost perfect and seamless fit -- if he can lay off the trigger finger. Granger has shot 42.8 percent last year and is shooting the exact same so far this year. He took a little over seven three-pointers per game last year and is putting up 5.6 per this year. He likes to gun. Of course, that might have to do with the pace that O'Brien had his team running up and down the court last year as the Pacers are one of the more up-tempo teams in the NBA (Indiana was second in pace last year and are seventh this season). Despite this reputation, Granger did have the ability to get to the rim. He took 4.5 shots at the rim per game last year and is at a respectable 3.5 per this year (especially for a shooter). I even made sure to check and see if Indiana's high pace led to him getting a lot of finishes on the break. In both this year and last year his assisted shots at the rim are at 39.3 and 40.5 percent, respectably. Given the fact that surrounded by better teammates, an inefficient offensive player like Caron Butler could contribute, I have no doubt Granger would flourish alongside Dirk and Jason Kidd given his more adept offensive skills. He wouldn't be cheap (he's owed over $45 million from this season through 2014) but he would be the best scoring-teammate Dirk has ever had in his career.

It's a pipe-dream, but I think something Mark Cuban is definitely keeping his eye on as Indiana transitions to its new coach and considering Dirk's window tightens its hatches a little more every season.

(Advanced stats courtesy, as always, from the lovely


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