The Indiana Pacers are coming off of a very disappointing finish to the 2013-14 NBA season, and they are hoping to retain Lance Stephenson in free agency. He is expected to be one of the most difficult free agents that we have seen in quite some time, but there is still expected to be quite a bit of interest in him when he hits the open market. Stephenson will be one of the most intriguing players to keep an eye on during free agency, especially because of his hot and cold personality on and off the floor.
Why is Stephenson the most difficult free agent that the NBA has seen in awhile? It’s quite simple, there are both extremely good and extremely bad sides to him, on and off the court. He led the NBA in triple doubles last season, but at the same time was more known for heckling LeBron James during the Pacers’ playoff series with the Miami Heat this past season. His numbers improved all around, but he also was seen showing displeasure at coaching decisions and opening his mouth way too much to the media.
There is no denying Stephenson’s ability on the basketball court, and his ability to become an even better and more special player than he already is. That being said, his attitude could hamper him from reaching his full potential. He would have a big game and help the Pacers come through with big wins, but then he would back it up with a bad game that would leave his teammates and coaches scratching their heads.
However, he still showed improvements all across the board in his game. He played in and started 78 regular season games with the Pacers last season, averaging 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game, and his shooting number improved in every aspect as well. That being said, he also jumped from 1.4 turnovers to 2.7 per game this season. The turnover issues can be credited partially to playing more minutes this season, but the minute count rose only six minutes per game.
As was mentioned beforehand, his shooting percentages rose dramatically in every single category. He improved his overall shooting percentage from 46 percent to 49.1 percent, and also improved his three-point shooting percentage from 33 percent to 35.2 percent. One of the main concerns through his first few seasons was his poor free-throw percentage, but that rose from 65.2 percent to 71.1 percent this past season as well.
Multiple teams will be showing interest in signing Stephenson this offseason, but the biggest issue is not knowing how he will fit within a new locker room and system. The coaching staff and team in Indiana has helped stabilize him and help him mature in a big way, but changing that type of culture could be a very bad thing for him. That being said, his talent does speak for itself and that is why a lot of teams will end up reluctantly making him nice contract offers.
Overall, this is going to be one of the most interesting situations to keep an eye on this offseason. The Pacers are currently considered the favorites to sign him and he has made it clear that he would like to return to Indiana, but there are other teams that can offer more money and still give him the chance to win. Stephenson’s name will come up early and often when free agency opens on July 1.
Evan Massey is a Staff Writer for HoopsHabit.com.