6.2Danny Granger's jump in points per game from 2007-08 to '08-09. He has raised his average by at least five points in each of the past three seasons, becoming the first NBA player to do so.
Record: 36-46 (fourth in Central) Points scored: 105.1 (fifth in NBA) Points allowed: 106.2 (26th in NBA)
This article appears in the October 26, 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated
As a 15-year-old on the New Jersey AAU circuit, Pacers guard Dahntay Jones chuckled the first time he saw power forward Troy Murphy take the court for the opposition. "Troy played for the Newark Rams, this inner-city team," Jones recalls. "He was this big white guy among all these black kids who ran up and down the floor. But he turned out to be fearless." Teenage Troy, in fact, was basically doing then what 29-year-old Troy does today: racking up double doubles by banging down low (at 11.8 rebounds per game, he was second to Orlando's Dwight Howard last year) and draining threes (at 45.0%, he was the NBA's most accurate shooter with more than 185 attempts). Says Jones, "He's always been a monster."
But even monsters don't mind a little help. Despite getting career years from Murphy and All-Star swingman Danny Granger -- who was named Most Improved Player -- the Pacers were undermined by their defense, which was fifth worst in the NBA. Enter free-agent signee Jones, who will be counted on to up the defensive tempo as a top reserve and help Indiana end a run of three years without making the playoffs. While Murphy is the Pacers' ballast and Granger is their leading man, the 6' 6" Jones will be their stopper. Indiana's need for such a player, Jones says, was "very clear from my first conversation with [president] Larry [Bird]."
As a Nugget, Jones drew notice last postseason for the way he hounded Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul. (He also heard complaints from coaches Phil Jackson and Byron Scott about his physical play.) Jones, 28, has shown that same intensity in Indiana's practices. "I know that signing Dahntay may not seem like a sexy off-season move," says Murphy, "but I can already see what he's doing against Danny Granger." The Pacers are hoping that a little more D will make a huge difference. -- Pablo S. Torre
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