The Lakers, Bulls and Bobcats are among the teams who are planning to target Lance Stephenson in free agency this summer, according to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. Deveney hears from a GM who expects Stephenson to draw offers with an eight-figure starting salary. Other NBA executives pegged his annual value at between $7-9MM in December, but his continued strong play this season may be boosting his value.
Stephenson has expressed a desire on multiple occasions to re-sign with the Pacers, who’ve signaled that they’re prepared to offer him a sizable contract. It’ll be a tight squeeze to fit such a deal onto the payroll, given Indiana’s reluctance to pay the luxury tax. Deveney examines the variables and suggests the Pacers would have to trade away other salaries to pay Stephenson at market value. Some of his calculations are based on the notion that Paul George could wind up receiving 30% of the cap when his extension kicks in next season, but he agreed to take only 27% of the cap if he triggers the Derrick Rose Rule.
In any case, the Pacers will face tough decisions unless Stephenson is willing to take a hometown discount. Deveney suggests trading Chris Copeland and his two-year, $6.135MM as a solution, but finding a team to absorb that deal without sending salary back to Indiana will be difficult, particularly considering Indiana can’t trade any first-round draft picks before this month’s deadline.