Lance Stephenson

After leading the Indiana Pacers through the good and bad times for six seasons, Danny Granger wasn’t a part of the Indiana Pacers being only one game away from the NBA finals last season, and yet he probably will still have his starting spot waiting for him next season, pushing Lance Stephenson back to the bench.

There’s no doubt that on regular circumstances, without injuries, Granger is the much better player. He averaged 18.2 points per game in 2011-2012, leading the Pacers to the conference semifinals, and provides an excellent scoring option next to Paul George, when he’s healthy. However, his patellar tendinosis made him miss almost an entire season, not including his attempt midway through it to return, not really succeeding though.

Lance Stephenson isn’t the scorer, passer or leader Granger is, but he’s a better defender, and seemed to fit right in into the very tough group the Pacers put on the court, taking the Miami Heat to 7 games in last year’s conference finals. He averaged 8.8 points per game in the regular season, but had a couple of memorable playoff performances – 25 points against the New York Knicks in the clinching game of the series, and 20 points against the Miami Heat in the game 4 win.

Stephenson, despite his rise in stature and fame, doesn’t mind becoming a bench player if it means playing behind Granger. I’m just coming in to play hard. Whatever coach Vogel decides to do, I think it’s a great decision. Me coming off the bench, Danny coming off the bench, either way, we’re deep. Whatever helps the team, that’s what I want to do.

Both Stephenson (making $1 million) and Danny Granger (making $14 million) are entering a contract-year, with Stephenson looking to prove he’s worth a very big extension, while Granger is hoping to minimize the fall he’ll see in his salary in the next few years. But starting doesn’t mean more minutes, and if Granger doesn’t bring the same kind of toughness and assimilation Stephenson showed throughout the season in his upgraded role, Stephenson won’t see too many minutes being taken away from him.

Image: Source