Last year over at NBAPlaybook, Sebastian Pruiti took a look at players who struggled during the season and looked at whether it was a fluke season or the start of a trend. This year, Sebastian is bringing the series to Basketball Prospectus.
Even though the Indiana Pacers made their way into the playoffs for the first time in five years and hung tough with the Chicago Bulls in the first round before being beaten, Danny Granger took a step in the wrong direction in terms of his production and his development. After winning the Most Improved Player award in the 2008-09 season, Granger was able to play at the same high level two years ago. Last year, however, was a different story. Granger saw his scoring average drop from 24.1 ppg to 20.5, and while some of that had to do with being used less (due to having more options, Granger saw his Usage Rate drop from 28.7 percent to 26.7), Granger didn't really help himself as he saw his True Shooting Percentage (TS%) drop from 56.4 percent to 55.4 percent and his turnover rate (TO%) jump up from 10.58 to 12.34. All of this had an effect on his PER, which went from 19.81 to 17.82.
Where Did He Struggle?
Granger's biggest problem this past season compared to two years ago was his ability to score in spot-up situations where he was catching and shooting. There are two key areas where Granger struggled in spot up situations. First, he struggled knocking down open jumpers. Two years ago, when Granger was considered "unguarded" by Synergy Sports (46.9 percent of the time), he shot 44.2 percent. Last year, Granger was considered unguarded the same amount of the time (again, 46.9 percent), but his shooting percentage on these type of shots dropped all the way to 38.1 percent. So what's different? Well, if you want Granger shoot two years ago and compare it to last year, there is a notable difference:
Two years ago when spotting up, you notice Granger jumps out a noticeable amount. Watch where he lands after shooting on these next shots:
This is a clip of Granger shooting from this past season. Notice how he is jumping much more up and down, then out. Also notice the result of these shots, most of them missing short, coming off of the front of the rim.
Now, you always hear people (myself included) that a good shooting motion consists of a nice up and down jumping motion. With that being said, some shooters are just more comfortable jumping out a little bit and using their legs (and the jump out) to get a little bit more out of their shot. Granger seems to be this type of shooter. With Granger jumping straight up or down (don't know if he was instructed to do this or if it was something that just happened), he started front-rimming some shots. Once he starts doing that, it throws everything off for a shooter mentally. He starts using his arms more, trying to muscle the basketball to the rim, and that throws off his arc, accuracy, and rotation. All of that can lead to a poor shooting year, and it's possible that this is what happened to Granger. What makes this more likely is that Granger's shooting success two years ago wasn't a fluke. In 2008-09 Granger knocked down 42.6 percent of his open jumpers
Can He Bounce Back?
Knocking down the open jumper in catch-and-shoot situations is important for a player like Granger because it gets the defense running at him (because they have to respect his shooting ability and close out hard on him) and once that happens, he can start putting the ball on the floor and getting to the rim easily. I already mentioned that Granger's success shooting the ball two years ago wasn't a fluke (he's been really good at it for a while until this past season), so I think it is very likely that Granger can return to form if he gets his shooting form worked out and gets back to a place where he is shooting the ball comfortably, knocking down jumpers, and then playing off of that. If Granger can get back to his old self, this Pacers team could become very dangerous.
Sebastian Pruiti is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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