One of the more interesting free agents this offseason is Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson.
Stephenson, 23, enjoyed a sporadic playoffs, but that’s what you get with a young talent like him. What he’s probably more known for at this point, though, are his antics on the court.
In the middle of the Eastern Conference Finals, XN Sports laid out some of the options the Pacers have if they want to re-sign Stephenson. Essentially, if they give him a deal worth close to $10 million per year, the team will be unable to bring in a better bench. Or they can allow Stephenson to get overpaid by another club.
Grantland NBA writer Zach Lowe outlined which teams are in and which are out of the Stephenson sweepstakes this summer. The list, as expected, begins with Indiana. The biggest factor remains the price tag.
Stephenson should fit any long-term picture the Pacers have of themselves; they know him best and he’s comfortable there. But price could be an issue. Indiana is hoping Stephenson has cost himself some money, and there are lots of teams waiting around to see if the market starts in the $6 million–$8 million range — a spot at which they might dive in. The Pacers would outbid that, but it takes only one daring team to take a leap and smash that market apart.
Joining Indiana in the category of most likely landing spots are the Charlotte Hornets and the Detroit Pistons.
Michael Jordan said the Hornets are going to make a splash this offseason, and the team has money to spend. Charlotte was a surprise team in 2013-14 by earning the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference, and the addition of Stephenson alongside Kemba Walker could mean the Hornets could continue their ascension.
Stan Van Gundy is now calling the shots in Motown. Part of the reason he accepted the Pistons’ offer was because he now has control of basketball operations, too. Detroit has about $12 million in salary cap room, and Stephenson’s presence could allow Brandon Jennings to move into a more natural role.
In addition, Lowe names the Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Pelicans as sign-and-trade possibilities. The Nuggets have a lot of cap flexibility and coach Brian Shaw has a good relationship with Stephenson. Plus, the team needs to upgrade at shooting guard.
The Pelicans have been the team mentioned by a lot of NBA executives, per Lowe.