Indiana Pacers preparing for Danny Granger's return

Gregory Shamus

Danny Granger is ramping up for the Pacers. The challenge for Indiana will be finding the right role for the scoring forward.

Indiana Pacers forward Danny Granger resumed practice with the team Tuesday after missing three weeks because of a strained calf.  The next challenge will be integrating him into the rotation. Pacers head coach Frank Vogel was non-committal to Granger's role with the team and will ease him into playing, according to reporter Scott Agness:

"I'll probably have a time frame where for X number of games or so, he'll come off the bench and probably get some of the minutes Orlando Johnson and Solomon Hill are getting," said Vogel.

"Then, we'll see where it goes from there."

Granger missed all but five games last season with knee issues while the Pacers pushed the Miami Heat to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. He missed every game to open the 2013-2014 season and the Pacers own the best record in the NBA.

Carving a bench role for Granger could be best for the Pacers, however. Indiana's bench scoring struggles continue despite the addition of Luis Scola and C.J. Watson. The Pacers' bench is scoring 22.5 points per game, according to Hoops Stats. That's the second-lowest mark in the NBA.

Indiana's current bench wings, Orlando Johnson and Solomon Hill, have combined for 6.7 points in 24.6 minutes per game. The Pacers also signed Chris Copeland to a two-year deal but he hasn't had an opportunity to find a role with the team. Copeland has played in three games for a total of eight minutes.

Granger averaged at least 18 points per game for Indiana for five consecutive seasons before missing extended time last year. The Pacers' identity has shifted since Granger was a healthy starter, however. When Granger was last healthy during the 2011-2012 season the Pacers allowed 103.1 points per 100 possessions, according to Basketball-Reference. Now they're the top-ranked defense, holding teams to 92.3 points per 100 possessions.

The Pacers' starting lineup of George Hill, Paul George, Lance Stephenson, Davis West and Roy Hibbert currently ranks as the best five-man lineup (minimum 60 minutes played) in defensive rating, allowing just 80.4 points per 100 possessions, according to the NBA's media-only stats website. It's unlikely for Vogel to interrupt a lineup that is currently dominating the league. This five-man unit played the second-most minutes last season, clocking 1218 minutes together. The consistency shows in the performance.

All the numbers point to Granger's role being reduced to a bench scorer. Adding Granger, who has averaged 18.1 points per game and 38 percent shooting from deep through his career, could give the Pacers' bench a missing dynamic while allowing the team to monitor and limit his minutes.

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