Having too many players who deserve 15-plus minutes of playing time per game is a blessing and curse for any team. For the Indiana Pacers this will be a blessing, but with Danny Granger returning to the team and starting lineup, they will have to figure out a way to maximize Lance Stephenson’s playing time. And the best way to do that is to make him the backup point guard.
Wait, didn’t the Pacers sign C.J. Watson to play backup point guard this season? They sure did, but when your season is championship or bust you have to make tough decisions, even if it affects some of your new players.
It’s basically a foregone conclusion that Granger will return as the starting shooting guard unless he suffers a setback. That means Stephenson will move back to the bench despite the fantastic season he had last year. But not all hope is lost for Stephenson. He will become the Pacers’ sixth man and already has the backup shooting guard spot locked up.
So if he has the backup shooting guard spot, then why does he need to play point guard? Because he does one thing no other Pacer does: He pushes the ball in transition.
Stephenson’s stat line may not have looked pretty last year – 8.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists – but his ability to run the fast break is something the Pacers were missing the past couple seasons. Darren Collison was able to push the ball, but his speed could never match Stephenson. It’s safe to say Stephenson and the Pacers have found his greatest asset to the team.
The Pacers could use the first half of the season easing Granger back into his normal workload and continue to use the backcourt combo of George Hill and Stephenson. I’ve said it before and I will likely say it again, but Hill looked a lot more comfortable playing the shooting guard spot last season and Stephenson looked more comfortable at point. So it would only make sense to play them this way when Granger gets his early rest.
Vogel could then send in Watson to replace Hill once his minute limit was reached and push Stephenson to shooting guard. While this isn’t a flawless game plan, it’s one the Pacers should attempt because if it clicks they could become even more dangerous than they already are.