The Indiana Pacers have gotten much better this summer, which actually says quite a bit. After all, this is a team that took the Miami Heat to seven grueling games in the 2013 NBA Playoffs and that has a relatively young core that they are building around. Adding more pieces to a team like that is huge for them going forward.
Not only did they add pieces, but they made some extremely smart moves. They added depth at the point guard position, a huge point of concern last season, by adding C.J. Watson and Donald Sloan. The Pacers also signed one of the most underrated free-agents on the market this off-season in Chris Copeland, another player who will aid Indiana’s bench production.
However, with these recent additions and, more importantly, the return of Danny Granger back to health and their rotation, the Pacers can’t afford to essentially mortgage the future of some of their young players, the most notable being Lance Stephenson.
After looking like a major work-in-progress over his first two seasons in the NBA, Stephenson showed a ton of growth and potential last season. Stephenson played in 78 games, starting in 72 of them, and averaged a solid 8.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists and one steal in 29.2 minutes per game while shooting 46 percent from the floor.
Stephenson really re-invented himself last season. Coming out of high school and then college, Stephenson really had a reputation as nothing more of a scorer. He’s developed now into a super role player that can provide offense but is also an above-average perimeter defender.
The development of Stephenson was on full display in the postseason. In 19 games he averaged 9.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 35.4 minutes per game. He only shot 40.8 percent from the field in the playoffs, but his potential was clearly evident.
At just 22 years old, Stephenson is still somewhat of a work-in-progress, though he’s much further along than he was just a year ago. With their additions and Granger returning, the Pacers can’t afford to stunt Stephenson’s growth as a player by cutting his minutes or burying him in the rotation. In short, he’s way too talented to not see the floor and have a chance to make an impact on the game.