We’re moving through the regular season and continuing with our Expected Scoring player profiles. Today we’ll be looking at the Indiana Pacers’ Danny Granger.
If you’ve missed my other posts on the subject, Expected Points uses a player’s FGA from each area of the floor and multiplies it by the average number of points scored on that type of shot to come up with an Expected Point total from that area. The Expected Point total can than be compared to the actual number of points a player scored from that area to arrive at a Point Differential. This point differential is an expression of how a player shot compared to the league average, but I like that the comparison is drawn with actual point totals. The average values of shots by location that I use (At Rim – 1.208, <10ft. – 0.856, 10-15ft. – 0.783, 16-23ft. – 0.801, 3PT – 1.081, FT – 0.759) were calculated by Albert Lyu of ThinkBlueCrew.
Granger entered the league with the reputation of being a solid, all-around and NBA ready young player. He contributed as a defender right off the bat but in 2008 he had a break-out season on the offensive end, scoring 19.6 points per game. He followed that up with an All-Star campaign in 2009, averaging 25.8 points per game, and seemed poised to join the ranks of the NBA elite at the small forward position.
Over the past two seasons, however, the Pacers have continued to struggle and Granger has been unable to duplicate his individual production, particularly at the offensive end of the floor. Here are his traditional stats (per 40 minutes) from his last three seasons and the 2010-2011 season through 31 games:
Granger’s minutes and turnovers have increased slightly, just as his personal fouls have declined. His assists, rebounds, steals, blocks and free throw percentages have fluctuated but remained mostly steady. The big decline has been in his scoring average and this is a direct function of the precipitous drop in his 3PT% and overall FG%.
This serious decrease is a function of both poor shooting and poor shot selection. Let’s delve into this a little deeper by looking at Granger’s Expected Scoring numbers. Below is a table showing Granger’s Expected Points, Actual Points and Point Differential for each area of the floor from the last three seasons and through the first 31 games of this season (all numbers are per 40 minutes). If you prefer a spreadsheet to the embedded table photo, here is the link.
For the first time in the past four seasons Danny Granger is averaging fewer point per 40 than expected. Never a terrific shooter at the rim or on long jumpers, his point differential has also declined into the negative range on three pointers and shots from 10-15ft. Altogether he is averaging 0.21 points less than expected per 40 minutes. This may not seem like much, but for a player who averaged 3.00 points more than expected per 40 minutes just two seasons ago, and one who is asked to carry such a huge offensive load for his team, this lack of efficiency is quite serious.
When looking at his XPts we see that his numbers at the rim are essentially at a four-year low, while his numbers on 16-23ft. jumpers are essentially at a four-year high. In simple terms his shot selection has shifted to where he is relying more on long two pointers and less on shots in the paint. In addition we can see that his XPts on free throws is at a three year low, meaning less trips to the free throw line. Finally, the drop in his 3PT shooting to a career low 53.9 eFG% has brought his numbers down even further.
One issue that is not captured by Expected Scoring numbers is the quality of shots from each location. It’s all well and good to say a player needs to take more shots at the rim or more three pointers to reach maximum efficiency but those need to be quality shots with the same likelihood of being made. This season Granger has increasingly been forcing contested shots, one of the reasons he is shooting at career low percentages. One place we can see this is in the percentage of his shots which are assisted on.
Granger’s Ast% has fallen to 54.4% a five year low for him. In addition his Ast% on shots at the rim and on three pointers are both career lows, 56.5% and 89.4% respectively. Too often he catches the ball on the perimeter, sizes up his defender and then rises for a contested jumpshot without even challenging the defense to move or adjust. His forced drives to the rim are contributing to his increase in turnovers as well. His Ast% on mid-range jumpers (10-15ft.) has risen steadily the past three seasons to 28.6%, but it’s nowhere near the 45.2% it was during his All-Star campaign. We see the same thing with his Ast% on long two pointers (16-23ft.). The 41.0% he has posted this year is not a career low, but it’s a far cry from the 54.2% he posted in 2008 or the 75.2% he posted in 2007.
Danny Granger has all the tools to be a powerful offensive weapon for the Pacers. However, his points this season are coming mostly from the quantity of his shots as opposed to the quality. For this problem to be solved both Granger and the Pacers’ coaching staff need to make some changes. The Pacers have other legitimate offensive weapons and hiss responsibility is not as great as it was two seasons ago. In 2009 a jumpshot from Granger, contested or not was usually their best offensive option, which just isn’t the case anymore.
Jim O’Brien needs to make some offensive changes to increase the roles and responsibilities of Roy Hibbert and Darren Collison, making sure that when Granger does get his shots they don’t have to be long jumpers with defenders draped all over him. Granger needs to do his part by passing up those long, contested two pointers. The key to regaining his efficiency will be in moving without the ball and allowing his teammates to set up those easy opportunities for him whether from the perimeter or at the basket.
Both Granger and the Pacers’ need to recognize that he needs longer needs to score in bunches just for them to survive. For the team to take the next step other offensive weapons need to be utilized and maximum efficiency needs to become Granger’s individual goal.