Trading For A Core Player: Danny Granger

There has been some talk recently of the New Jersey Nets needing a core player in order for them to take “it” to another level.  Of course, this all came about  because of the likely availability of Chris Paul and no matter what he and the New Orleans Hornets say or don’t say, there are still rumors milling about that Paul can still be traded.  Another reason for this talk of a core player for the Nets is Carmelo Anthony, who has until June 30, 2011 to accept a contract extension offered by the Denver Nuggets, which he still hasn’t accepted and hence the possibility that he could be traded at the NBA trade deadline.  However, two things should be said: 1) my NAS colleagues will be talking about the aforementioned duo of Paul and Anthony and 2) while Brook Lopez is a core player, like most successful teams, another superstar-type of player/talent is needed to elevate a team.  Today, we’ll take a look at Indiana Pacers forward, Danny Granger.

Thanks to ESPN’s awesome Trade Machine feature, we see that the rumored deal that hovered around NBA Draft day (Devin Harris and Granger being the primary pieces) can happen straight up.  The earlier rumor actually had Harris, Yi Jianlian, and the third overall pick going to the Indiana Pacers with Granger and the tenth overall pick coming back to the Nets.  Obviously that can’t happen now and all indications point to Derrick Favors not being a part of any trade, particularly this one.  So, would the Pacers do a straight-up trade?  Probably not.

So, what else to do except add some draft picks to the package.  The Nets will have 10 picks in the next three drafts and with the Pacers having several players coming off the books after the 2010-11 season, including big money contracts – Mike Dunleavy, Jr. ($10.6 million), T.J. Ford ($8.5 million), and Troy Murphy ($12 million) – they can use the picks.  Currently, the Pacers have a $68.5 million, which is $10.5 million over the salary cap.  Trading Granger for Harris will do two things for the Pacers – give them the point guard they need (sorry, Mr. Ford) and slash about $2 million off their cap.  So, Harris and a couple of draft picks for Granger might be good enough to get the deal done.

Now, the question is – would Danny Granger be that core player that brings the Nets to the ubiquitous “next level”?

While he obviously hasn’t led the Pacers to glory, you can blame that on his teammates, injury (both to him and them), and a seeming lack of talent/chemistry.  On a Nets team that already has one core player in Lopez, a great (wild card) piece in Terrence Williams, youngsters with upside that can fill an immediate role in both Damion James and Derrick Favors, and role players such as Anthony Morrow, and the Nets seem to have a lot of pieces in place.  Would Granger make a difference?  Most definitely… and even ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine agrees as it projects the team would win four more games with Granger.

However, there are concerns as someone would need to take up the mantle of starting point guard for the team.  Can Jordan Farmar actually make the best of the shot he’s always wanted?  Possibly.  Would the Nets try out T-Will at the one and hope for the best?  Possibly.  However, while no one would match the effect and production of Devin Harris, at least the Nets have solid options.  Another question that pops up immediately is Granger’s durability.  After playing in 78, 82, and 80 games in his first three seasons, he’s only played in 67 and 62 games since, respectively.  Yet, when he’s played, he’s performed like one of the top ten players in the league.

Check the stats in the last two seasons:

2008-09: 67 G; 25.8 PPG; 5.1 RPG; 2.7 APG; 2.7 3PTM; 44.7 FG%; 87.8 FT%; 1.0 SPG; 1.5 BPG; 21.8 PER

2009-10: 62 G; 24.2 PPG; 5.5 RPG; 2.8 APG; 2.6 3PTM; 42.8 FG%; 84.8 FT%; 1.5 SPG; 0.8 BPG; 19.8 PER

Do you think the Nets could use those numbers?  Of course they could.  A small concern would be his shooting from the field, but there’s always a trade-off with players, right?  Is it realistic that this trade goes down?  It’s probably slim since the Pacers would probably ask for Favors to take up the spot Granger would leave open.  And, they’ll have a ton of contracts that expire after this season and could probably wait until the NBA trading deadline to acquire younger and cheaper assets.

Also, I think it’s too soon to trade Harris without seeing if he can become an All-Star point guard now that he’s reunited with Avery Johnson.  Yes, Harris became an All-Star with the Nets and not the Dallas Mavericks, but Johnson helped develop Harris during their time with the Mavs and he could help elevate Harris’ game once again.  Unless the Nets can acquire CP3, Harris probably stays and relative to this post, Granger stays put as well.