There is a natural tendency for NBA fans and media to categorize players into certain molds to help better understand what they are and what they’re trying to do. To translate an unknown quantity into something a little more familiar. You only need to look at a scout report for any young player and you’ll undoubtedly find mention of their basketball forefather. You can spend hours reading about his skills, his tendencies, his career highlights. But a one-liner like “he’s the next Dwyane Wade” is all you really need to conceptualize him.

Herein lies my problem. I cannot conceptualize Danny Granger. I have trouble quantifying him. He doesn’t want to fit in any of the molds. What the hell is Danny Granger?

“I’m in awe right now, but it’s important not to be a spectator when he gets the ball.
Down the clock, I’m not worried when the ball is in his hands.”

I have seen Danny Granger play only six times in my life. Last season I watched every single Pacers-Pistons game (all four of them) and I distinctly remember my impression of him: this guy spends way too much time on the perimeter for someone who is 6-8 – how bout you go get a rebound! Antawn Jamison is pulling down twice as many boards as you! But I also distinctly remember my other impression of him. This guy is 6-8 and he moves like a cat. He’s like Josh Smith except you can’t leave him open on the perimeter, and he can cross you over. And he can run a fast break. The Pistons easily won all four of those games so I wasn’t too worried about Danny Granger, and I promptly forgot about him. Until recently.

There is always a premature scoring front runner at the start of an NBA season. Someone who’s average balloons way beyond what seems possible, but who ultimately reaches equilibrium and drifts off the charts. Remember when Flip Murray was a Top 10 scorer back in early December 2003 averaging 21 points per game? No, of course you don’t. No one does. And that’s what I thought would happen to Danny Granger this season. He came flying out of the gates scoring 33 in a season-opening loss to Detroit (another game I watched) and followed it up with five straight 20+ point games. Impressive, even if he was jacking up WAY too many threes. But then he started to slip. A few sub par games and some flu-like symptoms saw his scoring average dip a couple of points during a stretch where the Pacers lost five of six. It was happening. The Ronald Murray of 2008.

But then it didn’t, and he dropped 32 on Kobe and the Lakers (killer game) and went for three LONs in a row and one third of the way through the season Danny Granger is sitting amongst the top five scoring elite (along with The King, The Mamba, The Flash and The German) and will remain there until 2008-2009 plays itself out. Danny Granger is not the Flip Murray of 2008. He’s just one of the best scorers on the planet.

“He’s an incredible player. He’s turning out to be one of the
top players in the league. He’s a very difficult guard.”

If he wasn’t on your radar then you’re not alone (but if he was then I hate you and your fantasy team). A lot of people had high expectations for this guy – the words “future” and “all-star” were sometimes put next to each other in sentences to describe him. But I don’t think anyone thought he’d explode into a 25+ppg stat stuffer so soon, not on this Pacers team, not with so much more of his game to develop. And how bout that game?

He strokes the three-ball as well as any big in the league not named Rashard Lewis, except if you get out to him he can go around you and embarrass you. He’s not Rashard Lewis.

Defensively he’s extremely active – second in blocks per game amongst all small forwards behind Andrei Kirilenko. But AK-47 has never lead his team in scoring. He’s not Andrei Kirilenko.

He’s athletic enough to surprise you every now and then, but he’s not flashy and he’s not dunk-happy, which kinda reminds me of Paul Pierce. But then again The Truth never threw one down on Lebron’s head. He’s not Paul Pierce.

His game is by no means perfect, but when he improves his post-up game a little more he will command a truly awesome offensive arsenal. Kinda like Carmelo, but with a better three point shot. He’s not Carmelo Anthony.

What exactly is he? He’s been called the next Shawn Marion. The next Josh Howard. Some have even labeled him the next Scottie Pippen (that’s actually impossible, see “Scottie Pippen-type Player“). But he’s none of those. He’s not going to be the “next” anything. The mold hasn’t been set yet. There is only one thing Danny Granger reminds me of.

And that is a platypus.

The platypus fell down the evolutionary tree of biology and hit every branch on the way down. It is the Swiss army knife of animals. It is covered with fur, has webbed feet, a tail, a beak (with nostrils in it!), a poisonous venom spur and muscles that generate electric fields to locate their prey (I am not making this up). It looks like a beaver, a duck and a walrus all at the same time. It’s fucking weird. But it’s also a biological miracle, a creature that simply has no peer. A creature that fits no mold.

Danny Granger is a platypus. Not in the “oh isn’t it furry and cute!” kinda way, but in the “you won’t find an animal that can swim, crawl, breath underwater, look cute and kill you at the same time” kinda way. I imagine most animals that swim past a platypus probably think “what the fuck is that thing?” and have a little chuckle to themselves.  Little do they know the platypus is going to come back to poison and electrocute them in a swift yet elegant move before strolling up onto the beach where no one can follow him. That is the Danny Granger way. Not everyone has heard of him, but underestimate him, taunt him, and he will damage you. Damage you in style.

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After dumping 37 on the Suns yesterday to go with the miracle buzzer-beating shot, Pacers coach Jim O’Brien was perplexed. “If Danny Granger isn’t an All Star, then I don’t know what an All Star looks like”.

All Stars don’t look like Danny Granger, Jim. Nothing does.

Except maybe a platypus.

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