Lance Stephenson

2018 Free Agent Stock Watch: Indiana Pacers

The Pacers are in an enviable position mere months after it seemed like they were doomed to a long and challenging rebuild. The breakout seasons enjoyed by Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis have helped distract from the absence of Paul George while the all-around contributions of an unheralded, cohesive veteran lineup has put Indiana firmly in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

The Pacers didn’t make a major splash at the trade deadline and were even asked specifically by players to avoid tinkering with the chemistry in the locker room. While it’s hard to argue that the franchise made the wrong call standing pat with a roster that’s punched above its weight on a nightly basis, the Pacers have a long road ahead of them before they’re considered serious challengers, even in the East.

It’s refreshing to see a team build anew without bottoming out. Solid drafting and some responsible payroll management will help them climb to the next rung on the ladder.Cory Joseph vertical

Cory Joseph, PG, 26 (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $29.9MM contract in 2017
Joseph has thrived as the younger half of a point guard tandem charged with the task of helping the Pacers play a faster style of basketball. While he’s ceded the majority of the starts so far this season to Darren Collison, Joseph is a solid rotation piece and possible future starter. It’s likely we’ve already caught a glimpse of his ceiling, so the former Raptors probably won’t draw major money on the open market. That being said, it’s hard to imagine he couldn’t procure a raise if he turns down his 2018/19 player option worth just less than $8MM.

Glenn Robinson III, SF, 24 (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $3.4MM contract in 2015
After breaking into Indy’s rotation in 2016/17, an ankle injury put Robinson III’s latest campaign on hold until after the All-Star Game. The Pacers may see some upside in the former second-round pick, and likely won’t have to outbid many competitors to retain his services should they wish to do so. Assuming the swingman’s health holds up in the final stretch of 2017/18, expect the club to lock him in for at least a few more seasons at an affordable rate. At this stage in the game, the Pacers can justify the low-risk, medium-reward lottery ticket.

Lance Stephenson, SG, 27 (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $12.6MM deal in 2017
While Stephenson’s career took a turn for the worse after he flew the coop in 2014, his return to Indiana has helped restore his value as a professional basketball player. The 27-year-old may not be the irreplaceable triple-double machine the Hornets hoped he would be when they poached him from Indiana four years ago, but he’s a solid rotation piece whose contributions to the Pacers franchise are both mysterious and intangible. Expect the club to bring their enigmatic swingman back on his dirt-cheap $4.4MM team option.

Joe Young, PG, 26 (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $5.1MM deal in 2015
The Pacers have never seemed particularly intent on working Young into their rotation. While you could argue that a consistently competitive squad like Indiana may be inherently reluctant to throw big minutes at an inexperienced point guard, he only topped the 20-minute plateau four times during his first two years in the league. The 25-year-old has seen an uptick in usage since Collison went down with a knee injury in early February, but the club may be better off turning down his team option and seeing what else they could do with the roster spot.

Thaddeus Young, PF, 30 (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $53.9MM deal in 2015
Young has established himself as a critical component of this Pacers team and fills the role of do-everything veteran forward admirably. While the almost-30-year-old’s services would be welcomed by several other contending teams, it’s hard to imagine Young’s camp being all that confident they’d land more than $13.8MM in a bear market. If Indiana was knee deep in the turbulent rebuild many expected, it would make sense for Young to take that chance, but given that the opposite is true, I anticipate him accepting the 2018/19 player option and returning as a leader on and off the court.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Central Notes: Shumpert, Wade, Stephenson, Bucks

Iman Shumpert, whom the Cavaliers spent most of the summer trying to trade, was in the starting lineup for Saturday’s loss at New Orleans, notes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. The move was necessitated by injuries, as Derrick Rose continued to be unavailable with a sprained left ankle.

Rose wants to remain in the lineup once he returns, writes Jason Lloyd of The Athletic, and he was concerned he might have to sit out today’s game if he played Saturday. Coach Tyronn Lue recently moved Dwyane Wade and Jae Crowder to the bench and didn’t want to disrupt their new roles, so he called on Shumpert. The Cavaliers have used four different starting lineups in six games.

There’s more this morning from the Central Division:

  • Cleveland’s reported interest in Suns guard Eric Bledsoe is the latest sign that the addition of Wade isn’t working out, states Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Wade, who asked to be removed from the starting lineup this week, is averaging 8.6 points through five games and is shooting just 43% from the field. Winderman suggests that Wade’s friendship with LeBron James blinded the Cavs to the reality that Wade can’t produce at an elite level anymore.
  • Pacers swingman Lance Stephenson hasn’t lost confidence despite a terrible start to the new season, relays Mark Montieth of In a reserve role for the high-scoring Pacers, Stephenson is averaging 6.2 points per game and shooting just 27% from the field, 13% from 3-point range and 38.5% from the free throw line. “I’m going to keep shooting,” said Stephenson, who came back to Indiana late last season after spending time with the Hornets, Clippers, Grizzlies, Pelicans and Timberwolves. “My confidence is never going to go down. In practice I don’t miss, so it’s probably just mental. A lot of rushed shots. Just stay poised and don’t get out of it. Bring it every game. I haven’t lost my confidence at all.”
  • When Myles Turner returns from the concussion that has sidelined him since opening night, Pacers coach Nate McMillan is considering using him together with Domantas Sabonis, Montieth writes in the same story. The move would put the team’s two best rebounders on the court at the same time. “It gives us some size, it gives us some versatility,” McMillan said. “We’re big, but we still have the speed and athleticism to defend and run our sets. “I look forward to getting to that as much as possible.”
  • Bucks guard Matthew Dellavedova is trying to use his experience to bring chemistry to a young team, notes Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times.

Central Notes: Parker, Jackson, Stephenson

Bucks GM Jon Horst said the team has had positive discussions with Jabari Parker‘s camp about a contract extension, Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets. The franchise places a high value on Parker, though Velazquez relays that former No. 2 overall pick’s injuries will play a role in the contract negotiations.

If Milwaukee can’t sign Parker to an extension by the deadline, the forward will become a restricted free agent at year’s end and the team can match any offer sheet he signs. Horst signals that the front office is negotiating with this in mind, as Velazquez relays in a full-length piece.

“Hopefully, the goal is to come to an extension agreement,” Horst said. “If we don’t, we want to be in a place where we can have the same type of productive conversations again as a restricted free agent with a player who we value significantly in our franchise.”

Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • While Parker “definitely” wants to be in Milwaukee, he admits that it’s out of his hands, Velazquez passes along in the same piece. “I have no clue [what’s going on] and that’s why I pay [my agent],” Parker said of his contract negotiations with the Bucks. “I let them do all the madness.”
  • Reggie Jackson, who has dealt with knee troubles since coming to the Pistons, will begin the season on a minutes limit, Rod Beard of the Detroit News relays via Twitter. “He will be on a minutes limit,” coach/executive Stan Van Gundy said. “It will be progressive as the season goes on.”
  • Despite the lack of firepower on the offensive, it appears the Pacers plan on unleashing Lance Stephenson as their sixth man, Jim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star writes.“I love him in that position,” said Pacers General Manager Kevin Pritchard. “It reminds me of [Manu] Ginobili a long time ago. You can’t always get everybody the opportunity to score and make plays in the first five minutes.”

Central Notes: James, Jefferson, Stephenson, Wade

LeBron James‘ future in Cleveland could be tied to the Brooklyn Nets’ performance this season, writes Harvey Araton of The New York Times. The value of the Nets’ unprotected first-rounder that the Cavaliers received in the Kyrie Irving trade won’t be known until much later in the season. If Brooklyn finishes last in the league again, the Cavs will have a 25% shot at the number one selection and their choice of players such as Michael Porter Jr., Luka Doncic and Marvin Bagley.

Although rumors have been persistent that James will be headed to the Lakers next summer, Araton speculates that scenario might change if the Cavaliers are in position to add another franchise player. If Isaiah Thomas returns to All-Star form after his hip injury, Jae Crowder improves the perimeter defense and James returns to the Finals for the eighth straight year, he might have a difficult time saying good-bye to Cleveland.

There’s more news from the Central Division:

  • Pacers center Al Jefferson lost a significant amount of weight in preparation for his second season in Indiana, relays Scott Agness of VigilantSports. The 32-year-old opted for a vegetarian diet after posting his worst season in more than a decade, averaging 8.1 points and 4.2 rebounds in 66 games. “He looks incredible, man,” said teammate Myles Turner“I think he’s dropped 40 pounds. When you see him you’ll see [how] he’s really trimmed down a lot. He’s moving well, he’s running the floor.”
  • The Pacers are counting on youthful energy to carry them through the season after most of the organization’s veteran presence was lost over the summer, relays Mark Montieth of In addition to Paul George, who was traded to Oklahoma City, Indiana cut ties with Jeff TeagueRodney Stuckey, Monta Ellis, Aaron Brooks and Lavoy Allen. “Everybody wants to talk about the whole Paul thing, but we’ve blocked all that out,” said Glenn Robinson III. “We’re looked at as an underdog team, but we’re coming in very hungry. I’m excited for this team. It seems we all have our minds in a great place and are ready to get better.”
  • Lance Stephenson, who returned to the Pacers in March, will be used as a sixth man, Montieth adds in the same piece.
  • Bulls vice president John Paxson and GM Gar Forman will meet with Dwyane Wade when he returns to Chicago to discuss his future with the team and a possible buyout, according to CSN Chicago. Paxson insists he and Forman were honest about their plans for the offseason during Wade’s exit meeting after the playoffs.

Central Division: Rose, Bucks, Tolliver

Don’t expect Derrick Rose to make his decision this weekend, contrary to previous reports suggesting that he would. Per Chris Haynes of ESPN, Rose will have a face-to-face meeting with the Cavaliers before ultimately making a decision next week.

After a decent if unspectacular lone season in New York, Rose has narrowed down a list of possible suitors to the Lakers and Cavs. His involvement with the latter could be impacted by recent revelations that starting point guard Kyrie Irving has requested a trade out of Cleveland.

While the parties are said to be engaged in a deal for the veteran’s minimum, the guard could see his role increase substantially if Irving gets his wish and is promptly moved.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Consider Pacers swingman Lance Stephenson among those “heartbroken” that Paul George and the franchise have parted ways. The pair remain friends, Scott Agness of Vigilant Sports writes.
  • Among those interviewing for positions in Jon Horst‘s front office with the Bucks is Knicks Director of Pro Player Personnel Mark Hughes, Ian Begley of ESPN writes. Hughes has played a large role in New York’s draft decisions over the course of the past decade.
  • The decision to bring Anthony Tolliver back aboard will pay off for the Pistons in veteran leadership, Rod Beard of the Detroit News writes. “He’s one of the highest-character guys in the NBA. What he will do in terms of leadership is important to our team, but it’s important that he’s a guy who can go out and play,” head coach Stan Van Gundy said.
  • The Pistons‘ chief goal this offseason was to improve their three-point shooting and Keith Langlois of the team’s official website writes that they’ve added a number of players that can help in that regard.

Eastern Notes: Stephenson, Sixers, Pistons

Coach Nate McMillan admits that Lance Stephenson can sometimes become a distraction on the court, as Clifton Brown of the Indianapolis Star passes along.

“I don’t want to take his passion from the game,” McMillan said of Stephenson. “We always have to control ourselves, that’s including myself on the sidelines. Sometimes that can become a distraction. We talk about that all the time. You can’t be drunk on emotions out there. We got to be able to get back, get to the next play. That’s for me, too.”

The combo guard knows he needs to control his emotions, adding that he doesn’t want to give the opposition anything they can use as an advantage.

“Sometimes I tend to get out of control,” Stephenson said. “I was getting frustrated with Kevin Love scoring on me. But that’s the passion I have for the game. I need to stop showing it. If somebody’s scoring on you and you show frustration, they’re going to keep going to it. I felt like I showed that. That’s what Paul [George] was talking about. Don’t show them no weakness.”

Clifton envisions McMillan shortening his bench for Game 3, which could mean more time for Stephenson in the Pacers‘ first home playoff game of 2017.

Here’s more from

  • GM Bryan Colangelo said the Sixers will address the power forward position this offseason, as Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News relays. “I think the stretch-four position is something, backing up Dario [Saric] or starting in front of Dario, whichever it is if we can find someone that’s better. We’ve got to probably address that four position,” Colangelo said.
  • The Sixers need to sign Ersan Ilyasova in free agency, Cooney contends in the same piece. The scribe pegs the power forward’s market value at $10-12MM per year, which he considers a reasonable rate for a player who fits in well next to Joel Embiid in the frontcourt.
  • Rod Beard of The Detroit News examines five players the Pistons could take if they stay at No. 12. The team has a 2.5% chance at climbing into the top-3, as Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors notes.

Central Notes: Pistons, Pacers, Stephenson

After a disappointing 2016/17 campaign, the Pistons will look to shore up their three-point shooting. So says head coach Stan Van Gundy, at least. Aaron McMann of MLive wrote about Detroit’s goal heading into the offseason.

We’ve got to shoot the ball better, there’s no question about that,” Van  Gundy told the media following his exit interviews with Pistons players.

Not long after, he’d go on to complain about the team’s regression throughout the season, as has become somewhat of a custom for the Pistons bench boss.

We just talked about that with our team. I think a lot of that can be internal development. [The Pistons] had virtually an entire roster that took a step back in that area this year.

There’s more from the Central Division:

Pacers Notes: George, Teague, Stephenson

Paul George will be eligible for the new Designated Veteran Player Extension if he’s named to an All-NBA team this season. By being selected to one of the three teams, George could net approximately $70MM more in an extension compared to what he’d be eligible for without being voted in. He’s aware of the pending situation and he’s hoping to be honored by the voters, as Scott Agness of Vigilant Sports relays.

“Man I hope so,” George said. “You’ve got a couple guys that so-called have been ahead of me, who have other guys on that list. I’ve been trying to lead and do it at both ends this whole season. Hopefully they take that into account, especially closing this year out, get us in the playoffs.

Here’s more from Indiana:

  • The point guard market will likely dictate whether or not the Pacers bring back Jeff Teague, Mark Montieth of contends. The scribe believes Teague’s price tag and the other available point guard options will be huge factors in determining what the franchise does.
  • It would be surprising if Lance Stephenson isn’t on the Pacers‘ roster next season, Montieth opines in the same piece. He adds that Stephenson may be best suited to play the point guard position.
  • Stephenson is exactly what the Pacers need for their playoff series against the Cavs, Tom Withers of the Associated Press writes. “He’s different. He’s the oddball and you need that,” George said of the 26-year-old. “You need the guy that’s energetic and live, a guy who’s going to stir the pot and we work very well off of each other.”

Community Shootaround: Shooting At The Buzzer In Decided Game

Count Courtney Lee among the latest NBA players to complain about opponents putting up shots in the final seconds of a decided game. On Friday night the Grizzlies laid waste to Lee’s Knicks, culminating in rookie Wade Baldwin IV standing at half-court with the ball and a 10-point lead as the game clock neared expiration.

Just before time ran out, however, Baldwin hoisted a deep three and nailed it. The basket pushed the Grizzlies above the triple-digit mark earning Memphis fans in attendance free chicken.

Lee, unhappy to lose by 10 but considerably angrier losing by 13, went after the rookie but was thwarted by a handful of Grizzlies veterans.

For him to do that, what are you doing it for, bro?,” Lee told Marc Berman of the New York Post. “Think about the people who’s doing it. They got bad luck in this league. … I don’t know what made him want to do it.”

Lee’s reaction is a common one among NBA players but should it be?

Just last week Lance Stephenson incited his own commotion by adding a layup in the final seconds of a win over the Raptors. Then, Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan called the moot field goal “disrespectful to the game“. This, naturally, was followed up by Stephenson exposing an instance of DeRozan’s teammate Norman Powell doing similar to the Sixers earlier this season.

Ultimately, the NBA and fan community that drives it need to decide what is permissible in the waning seconds of a ball game and what’s just sour grapes. In response to the Stephenson/Raptors theatrics, Bobby Marks of The Vertical  tweeted “I’m so tired of these unwritten rules in basketball. If you don’t want a player to shoot at the end of the game then play some D.

On one hand, it’s easy to empathize with players like Lee or DeRozan who see the unnecessary field-goal attempts as salt in the wounds of a fresh defeat. On the other, its a thin line expecting everybody to subscribe to the same unwritten rules of a game.

Should players adopt Marks’ stance and play defense if preserving a spread is so important to them? Or should players on the winning end know not to shoot when the game is out of reach?

Factors to consider are that some veterans will go so far as to let the shot clock expire before hoisting a shot at the buzzer resulting in their being assigned a turnover. Another is the fan factor, such as that which was in effect for Baldwin IV. Reaching certain point milestones, usually 100 points, can sometimes trigger benefits for fans in attendance. Does this impact the appropriateness of a last second basket?

You tell us in the comments below!

Central Notes: Stephenson, Irving, Williams

There’s no denying that Lance Stephenson has had an impact on the Pacers since returning to their lineup for the first time since he left via free agency in 2014. Clifton Brown of the Indianapolis Star writes that the 26-year-old is now giving Indiana exactly what the team needs.

When your teammates believe in you, and the organization believes in you, the game becomes easy,” Stephenson said of his return to the Pacers.

In his first game back, the swingman nearly instigated a brawl by driving home a layup in the waning seconds of a game the Pacers already won. Days later he fanned the flames of animosity with an Instagram post calling out the Raptors for being hypocritical in their response.

More important than any contributions as an instigator is the fact that Stephenson has helped the Pacers to their first back-to-back victories since February. With that two-game win streak, the club has laid claim to the Eastern Conference’s eight-seed (for now).

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • A flare-up in his surgically repaired left knee had Kyrie Irving limping off the floor in Friday night’s loss to the Hawks, Joe Vardon of writes. “It just, I don’t want it to feel sore anymore but it’s just the realization of it,” the Cavaliers guard said. “I’m doing everything possible to take care of my body, I’ve got a clear conscience with that. But also understand that sometimes it’s gonna hurt. And I gotta be able to deal with it.”
  • The Cavaliers may not be using free agent addition Deron Williams to his full potential but don’t fault them for it. Williams was the best and cheapest option available to the team when he was signed but often requires the ball in his hands to be his most dominant, Joe Vardon of writes. For the most part, the Cavs would prefer to keep the ball in the hands of LeBron James or Irving.
  • A second-round pick currently helping guide the Bucks to a six-seed in the Eastern Conference is in the running for the Rookie of the Year award, but Malcolm Brogdon has asked the club to donate the money it would have spent on an extravagant campaign on his behalf to charity instead. Per Alysha Tsuji of USA Today, Brogdon, who averages 10.3 points and 4.3 assists per game, sits second on the publication’s rookie tracker.
  • Veteran Cavaliers forward Richard Jefferson has struggled with asthma throughout his life and changes to how he combated the condition have led to his prolonged career, AJ Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today writes.