Lance Stephenson is about to get paid this summer, whether people like it or not.
He’s the kind of player most teams want; a 23-year-old emerging star who can stuff the stat sheet, play both ends of the floor and has the ability to take over a game at any point.
But although he’s no longer being considered for a long-term contract by the Dallas Mavericks, it was never explained why the Mavs were interested in Stephenson in the first place, or why he was even linked to going to Dallas at all.
It’s no secret: Not only do the Mavs want to make a splash in free agency when the calendar turns to July, but they want youth. Dallas wants the next crop of players to carry the franchise after Dirk Nowitzki retires. Either that, or find some players that aren’t going to retire any time soon.
Calderon and Ellis aren’t going to carry the franchise for the next 10 years; let alone five. Maybe Ellis will.
But in the case of Stephenson, you need to get rid of one of those two players to even consider giving a roster spot to a player that, while he has the potential to be something great, hasn’t established himself as a player you can build a franchise around. And even if the Mavs feel they’ve reached that tipping point where they’re willing to give Stephenson a close-to-max deal, you can’t keep Calderon or Ellis around unless you trade them.
Unless something’s going on that no one on the planet knows, Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban are fully committed, financially and basketball wise, with Calderon and Ellis going forward.
That’s why the Stephenson-to-Dallas rumors seemed so far fetched. Stephenson, for one thing, has no reason to leave Indiana unless he wants to be the top guy to lead a franchise. The Pacers have invested their entire future in Paul George.
There would be an immense amount of pressure on Stephenson to lead in Dallas, and that’s probably the biggest reason why the Mavs would more than likely stay away, at the end of the day. Forget the claims of selfishness and the possibility of being the next J.R. Smith (which, if that were to happen, someone help him quickly). There’s just no real reason for the Mavs to bring him on the roster unless they were fully confident he could lead the franchise for the next 10 years.
The fact that Dallas isn’t even confident that they want him tells you this idea will be kicked to the curb immediately once the clock strikes midnight on July 1.
There’s no doubt that Stephenson will get paid, based off potential alone, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he commanded near max dollars. He has the chance to be an All-Star and the next big name in the NBA.
It just shouldn’t be in Dallas, and it more than likely won’t be for all the right reasons.