The Indiana Pacers are coming off a season in which high expectations were only met with an unsatisfying finish. They were able to ride their hot start to the No. 1 seed in the East, but the Miami Heat proved to be too much for them once again. Now turning to the offseason, the Pacers are looking to make improvements to their roster in order to make a true championship run next season.
The Pacers have not been silent only three days into free agency. They have signed C.J. Miles and Damjan Rudez to improve their shooting, and also took a shot on undrafted free agent Shayne Whittington.
The top priority stated for the team, however, was to bring back their talented shooting guard Lance Stephenson. It was reported by Chris Broussard of ESPN and Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star that the team offered Stephenson a deal for five years worth $44 million. Thinking he is worth more, he has at this point declined the offer.
That offer was made before the team took on more money in the signings of their new players, leaving the Pacers with even less compensation to bring back Stephenson. If he decided to sign the original deal that the Pacers offered, the team would now be over $4 million beyond the Luxury Tax threshold.
So what are the options? Unfortunately, they aren’t very plentiful and it’s starting to look like Stephenson will be in a different uniform next season. The Pacers have the ability to release Luis Scola (which they very well may do), and because all of his contract is not guaranteed, it would save them around $3 million.
Even with releasing Scola, the numbers will not match up and more moves would have to follow. They could offer Stephenson less money than they did just days ago, or possibly even make his contract worth more in the later years of it, leaving space to make the cap this season. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported that the market for Stephenson just doesn’t seem to be there, meaning that his postseason antics may very well be the reason why the Pacers are able to bring him back at an affordable price.
Free agency is only three days old, and plenty more moves are still coming. The Pacers have shown so far that they are not afraid to pull the trigger on some players, but if they are not able to bring back Stephenson or find a suitable replacement, they may enter the 2014 season with unknown expectations.