Last season, we saw Lance Stephenson make a huge leap in his development as a player, and it was extremely helpful at time for the Indiana Pacers. Stephenson caught a lucky break with Danny Granger‘s injury, putting him in the starting lineup. With Granger coming back, and Stephenson heading back to the bench, will his growth as a young player be affected?
Stephenson was just a 2.5 points, 1.3 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game type of guy in 2011-’12, but in 2013, his luck changed. Danny Granger unfortunately was down for three months with a knee injury, meaning Stephenson had to step up. Stephenson made a good impression at shooting guard, and then when Granger returned from injury, his luck grew even stronger. Granger played only five games when he came back, to realize he would need the rest of the season off to fully rehab his injured knee. The season continued, and so did Stephenson’s growth.
The Pacers went onto finish the season third in the East, beat the Atlanta Hawks fairly easily in the first round of the playoffs, and then came the New York Knicks. This was the time Indiana needed Stephenson to step up the most as New York was no easy task. The first game of the series showed off Stephenson’s growth throughout the season. He ended Game 1 with 25 points and 10 rebounds, giving the Pacers the 1-0 lead in the series. The series went on and Stephenson had some here and there performances, but the series closer was quite a shocker to everyone. He ended the game with 11 points which isn’t too bad, but the real kicker was his rebound total. Stephenson ended the game with 13 rebounds, ultimately out-rebounding everyone on the floor as a shooting guard. Pretty impressive if you ask me. Stephenson ended the year averaging 8.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game.
Well, this season will be different. With the return of Granger to the starting lineup, Stephenson will be forced back to the bench, obviously decreasing his playing time from last season. Stephenson made a lot of growth last season, but he still has much more improvement to make.
With the less playing time, Stephenson may see his growth become a longer process. When you are in the starting lineup of a team, you generally have more confidence as you are the best your team has in your position. Also, he will have less time on the court to show his stuff.
Stephenson’s growth process may be more drawn out now, but I don’t think him coming off the bench will cause a serious halt in it. Stephenson is a great, young player and what he needs to work on in his game can actually be fixed in the offseason practices. I’m sure he will have a great season off the bench, and in a couple years, maybe he will be back in the starting lineup.