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Danny Granger vs. Luc Mbah a Moute: Indiana Pacers SF breaks the mold

Indiana Pacers SF Danny Granger has done something LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony have not over the course of the last three seasons: he has played well against Milwaukee Bucks SF Luc Mbah a Moute.

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Milwaukee Bucks forward Luc Mbah a Moute is perimeter defense expert who has a proven record of suppressing scoring stats for NBA stars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. Surprisingly, Indiana Pacers small forward Danny Granger has fared better than anyone in the aforementioned trio when going against LRMAM. Granger is not as strong or as quick and LeBron, he's not as accurate from long range as Durant and he's not as talented as Melo, but he is the only one who boosted his production against Luc. It's Granger than fiction...

...unless it's not. To take my initial point at face value would be risky. Nay, it would be downright Grangerous. The comparisons to LBJ, KD and Melo are a double-edged sword. Production is graded out relative to normal averages, and Granger doesn't match the baseline numbers those other three guys have put up in most scoring categories.

It's the problem I've pointed out with Brandon Jennings many times: improvement from a low baseline level does not always imply better production than what occurs with a decline from a high baseline level. Even so, Granger has somehow managed to play better against LRMAM than he has against the rest of the league, which isn't something many players can say.

What are you doing?

I've combined three seasons worth of stats for each player in a select group of top-end perimeter scorers (Danny Granger in this edition), and compared production levels to when Luc Mbah a Moute is on the court with that player. The basic assumption is that LRMAM matched up with Granger in man-to-man situations, or at least that he made a direct impact on Granger's production. If we can't assume that much, what's an ace perimeter defender good for anyways?

What does it mean?

The sample size for each on-court "matchup" is too small to be predictive of future performance -- LRMAM and Granger shared the court for 223 minutes over the last three years -- so the findings are merely descriptive. In other words, this is a strict evaluation of what has already happened, not any grand pronouncement that future matchups will proceed along the exact same lines.

What did you find?


Notes & Observations

  • Granger manages to play well against Luc in part because he's not a star player of the magnitude of LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Carmelo Anthony. Danny gets to play off-ball a lot more than those guys, and his ability to catch-and-shoot means LRMAM is constantly bombarded with screens. There is a special emphasis on using stagger screens, because they give two screeners the chance to disrupt angles that Luc can take to stay physical with Granger. This explains why the the perimeter shooting numbers look so good in comparison to the bigger names already covered in this series.
  • The rise in FT attempts didn't feel right to me upon first glance, so I checked on when those free throws occurred during the course of each game. As I suspected, most of the FTA increase (probably) had to do with Granger icing games from the line during Pacers wins over the Bucks.
  • Cont'd...Milwaukee is just 3-6 vs. Indiana over the past three seasons, and all three wins came during the Fear The Deer campaign (2009-10). Only three of Granger's nine total FTAs with LRMAM on-court came during the fourth quarter in '09-10.
  • Cont'd...By contrast, 14 of his combined 25 FTAs with LRMAM-on-court in the next two seasons came during the fourth quarter. With Indiana up and the Bucks playing chase-and-foul, Granger probably padded his numbers a bit while closing out games. Then again, he deserves credit for helping to put them in a position to win in the first place. It's all very messy, so take what you want from this hypothesis.
  • Check out the video embedded below for a more thorough breakdown of how Granger has managed produce well against Mbah a Moute.