There’s no doubt Lance Stephenson took another step last season towards becoming one of the best shooting guards in the league. The Indiana Pacers would love to keep him and their young core together, but there’s also a price they’re not willing to pay. A price that at the moment Stephenson is looking to get.
The Pacers offered Stephenson $44 million over five seasons but Stephenson and his reps quickly rejected the deal. Why? Stephenson is sure he can get more from the Pacers, knowing their cap situation, or from someone else. But despite being looked at by the Bulls, Hornets and Lakers, he isn’t a top priority for any team, which means they’re not allocating a whole lot of cap space to add him to the roster.
Stephenson averaged 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists last season, his fourth in the NBA. He didn’t make the All-Star game, but was considered to be one of the biggest snubs in it. Stephenson continues to be one of the more preplexing players in the league: Looking like a superstar one night, making impossible to shut and bringing shut down defense on the other end, but two days later can do nothing but harm to his own team with selfish basketball that seems to have not an ounce of thought behind it.
For that one game (game 5, conference finals) his antics with LeBron James – flopping, blowing in his ear and other less than classy behavior, seemed to work out well for the Pacers, he continued doing something the coach and Larry Bird asked him not to do. It has to hurt his value in the eyes of the franchise, and also for other general managers who are trying to decide how much he’s worth.
The Pacers at the moment are with a $64.9 million payroll, which means that if Stephenson doesn’t sign, it’s going to be very difficult signing someone of the same level, with a market that isn’t full of talented shooting guards waiting to be picked up. They’ll have the mid level exception to use. The owner, Herb Simon, isn’t interested in reaching the $77 million luxury tax, which means Stephenson isn’t getting $12 million a season.
A good player? Sure. An All-Star? Maybe this year. He certainly has nights when he looks like one of the best shooting guards in the league, on both ends of the floor. But someone who makes around $10 million a season or maybe more? Teams don’t like betting so much money on an inconsistent and maybe untrustworthy player, as Stephenson has shown with his behavior on the floor during the series with the Miami Heat. No one is likely to give him a better offer than what the Indiana Pacers have put in front of him.