The past, present and future of Danny Granger

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

From franchise player to buyout candidate, Danny Granger's career has taken some unexpected turns. What's next for the former Pacer?

Days after being traded away from the only franchise he's ever known, Danny Granger completed his physical with the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday morning. A pretty standard step to making any NBA transaction official, it also marks the unceremonious conclusion to Granger's final few years in Indiana.

When reports trickled out shortly after the trade deadline of the Pacers' deal with the Sixers, sending Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen to the Eastern Conference juggernaut, the move wasn't surprising in a traditional sense even if it came at the final buzzer. Indiana dealing Granger and adding help for a postseason run always felt possible.

Still, considering where Granger and the Pacers were just a few years ago, it's rather unbelievable to think of where things have gone. Once upon a time, Granger was an All-Star, the league's Most Improved Player and the closest thing Indiana had to a legitimate building block.

That was 2009, not too long ago.

Granger averaged 25.8 points per game that season -- fifth-most in the league -- but his emergence on the big stage didn't do much for the team. The Pacers finished 36-46 in 2008-09, identical to the previous season, and had the third-lowest attendance in the league. Breakout season or not, Granger was basically the star of an irrelevant franchise.

Over the next couple of years, Granger would struggle to significantly move the needle in Indiana, reaching his ceiling as the best player on a mediocre team. For most franchises, the lack of high lottery picks would be a major obstacle, but the team drafted Roy Hibbert in 2009, a move that's proven more spectacular than it first seemed, then Paul George and Lance Stephenson a year later.

Suddenly, Indiana had quite the young core, and Granger's place in the franchise's future seemed at least slightly less clear. Then the injuries happened.

In October 2012, Granger underwent surgery to address patellar tendinosis in his left knee. Sidelined for all but five games during the 2012-13 season, George and Stephenson quickly emerged to fill the gap -- and with the Pacers winning more and more, nearly reaching the NBA Finals, Granger's role on the team felt increasingly marginalized.

Understandably, all of this made the possibility of a trade loom throughout the offseason and training camp. Like when the Grizzlies made a postseason run without Rudy Gay and tried to bring him back into the fold, Granger's future with the team quickly became tenuous once everyone started thriving without him.

Still, the Pacers consistently sent the message that a healthy Granger would be welcomed back with open arms. Even as Indiana emerged early this season as a legitimate title contender, the team never counted out the value he could bring.

NBA Trade Deadline

"You know how I feel about Danny," Pacers president Larry Bird told the Indianapolis Star in December. "He brings so much more to our team than people realize."

That role never really materialized for Granger this season, though. Playing 22.5 minutes per game, he seemed to struggle adapting to a different role, 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.

All of this practically made a trade inevitable, and when Sam Hinkie came calling with two useful short-term pieces to offer, the Pacers jumped on it. Turner and Allen aren't game-changers, but the former should at least be a more effective sixth man than Granger has been.

The real question, then, is what's next for Granger. An unrestricted free agent this offseason, he'll likely be available before then, given rumors of a buyout with Philly. That would give him the chance to join another contender, and hopefully fit in better than he ever did in Indiana.

There should be a number of possible destinations for Granger. The Spurs, Suns, Heat, Clippers and Rockets could all use a player with his skills, and numerous others might be interested given his low price tag. However, what will happen this offseason is much less clear.

What is clear, though, is that Granger's career with the Pacers didn't go as planned. Instead of playing out his prime on a rising contender, he spent it on the sideline watching younger, better players take his spot. All that's left is seeing whether he can rebuild himself from here.

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