The Indiana Pacers have been the best team in the NBA this season and on Friday they are expecting to get back Danny Granger after a long layoff and if he plays well he could end up being the top trade chip heading into the deadline for teams like the Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers.
Granger missed all but five games last season while coming back from a knee injury and after playing in the preseason, he re-injured his knee and has missed time for the Pacers. The team has not suffered without him, as they have the best record in the east and last season they did not miss him either, as they made it to the eastern conference finals again the Miami Heat. Granger's absence allowed young star Lance Stephenson to break out and now Granger may not have a place in the starting lineup when he returns.
Head coach Frank Vogel has said that he wants to see how Granger looks in his return before making any decisions and with Stephenson continuing to play well, a deal could go down. According to Pro Basketball Talk, Granger is expected to play limited minutes in his first game against the Houston Rockets on Friday night and Vogel will base his playing time after that on how he is feeling and how the knee is performing. The Pacers are 20-4 and they have a matchup with the Miami Heat looming on Wednesday and this comes after the Heat lost to the Pacers in Indiana last week and now LeBron James and company can return the favor and they are now just two games back in the standings. The Pacers play the Rockets on Friday and that is the return date for Granger.
The team likely will not trade Granger until the trading deadline and while he has not been shopped explicitly, Larry Bird said in an interview that he is open to looking at trades to help the Pacers roster get to its best potential and that could include Granger. The Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics could be an option in a three team deal, as could the 76ers, as all those teams have been linked in some way to Omer Asik. Reports have been coming out over the past few days that a three team deal is in place for Asik and the Celtics and Pacers or the 76ers and Pacers could work with Granger, as he has an expiring on contract.
Asik looks like one of the most likely players to get moved and the Pacers could look to try and get some more pieces for a title run with a Granger deal. The Celtics have a number of pieces they would like to move and Chris Copeland could be an option for the Pacers to bundle into a deal and someone like Courtney Lee or Jeff Green could be options to go, as the team knows they have a decision to make regarding Stephenson this summer as well. Granger was supposed to come back sooner for the Pacers, but the extra time off may have gotten him fully healthy and now he could be a prime trading chip for the team.