Market for Stephenson might move, though concerns remain same

VIDEO: Lance Stephenson talks about his season with the Pacers in 2013-14

Lance Stephenson might or might not be happy with the Indiana Pacers’ contract offer to him. But he has to be happy with the Charlotte Hornets’ contract offer to Gordon Hayward.

By doing nothing beyond waiting, Stephenson – the talented and erratic shooting guard who is testing free agency after four seasons of development and nurturing in Indiana – has seen the market change for good young wing players. Not necessarily his market to stay in Indianapolis, given Larry Bird‘s calculation of Stephenson’s pro & con bottom line: five years, $44 million, an average annual salary of $8.8 million. But the market overall, as determined by a pair of needy teams in modest-sized markets.

The Hornets’ decision to sign Hayward to an offer sheet for four years, $63 million (a max deal worth $15.75 per year) presumably has shifted things seismically not only for Stephenson but for Chandler Parsons, Trevor Ariza and Luol Deng.

Depending on what you read or believe, Stephenson already was displeased with the amount of Indiana’s offer and/or Bird’s one-price strategy.

Some reports claim Stephenson was simply disappointed by the Pacers’ number and wants to see what else is out there. Some claim he rejected that deal and is looking to leave. Among the teams said to have interest, from passing to strong, in Stephenson: Boston, Dallas, Chicago, Miami, Charlotte and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Taking the speculation to yet another level, there was word out of Texas that the Mavericks might deign to offer a smaller deal with Stephenson if he spurns Indiana yet miscalculates and grows desperate enough to accept a worse payday. Good luck with that.

We all know how the game goes from here: If Avery Bradley is worth $8 million a year to Boston with his limited offensive impact and Hayward is worth nearly twice that to Charlotte and Utah – the Jazz have been open about their intent to match anything Hayward signed – then it might seem, in sheer basketball valuation, Stephenson should be further to the right on the pay scale than what Indiana has presented. There are a couple of disclaimers though:

  • The difficulty, or should we say near-impossibility, of attracting free agents to Salt Lake City. Epecially with the Jazz mired in the lottery. With a new, unproven coaching staff.
  • Hayward’s restricted status.

Both of those point toward a player perhaps getting overpaid. A market that can’t dangle some mix of beaches, balmy weather, nightlife, lucrative endorsements and instant winning often has to show more money. And with RFAs, if the current team has expressed its intention to match, a rival can only fatten the offer in hopes of discouraging that.

Indianapolis isn’t a glamour market but it has gone to two consecutive East finals, with a breakthrough possible again next spring, especially if Miami has a break-up. Stephenson is unrestricted, which means that the team that overpays him will be the one stuck.

And stuck is an operative word, leading to a couple legitimate disclaimers about Stephenson and his value:

  • The Pacers shooting guard has had an unusually patient and nurturing situation in Indiana. Bird has had his back from the start, drafting him in 2010 despite off-court incidents and behavioral concerns. The team’s veterans have encouraged and kept him in line for the most part. Even when Stephenson drove down his own value with some high-profile hi-jinks against LeBron James and the Heat this postseason, Bird wondered aloud if he should have spent more face time with the irrepressible player.
  • Teams, including the Pacers, wonder what Stephenson might be like off the court once he has an eight-figure, multi-year guaranteed contract. He might take that as validation of everything – good and bad – he’s been doing, rather than a deal offered flinchingly in the hope that his maturity might catch up to his skill level.

Bob Kravitz, longtime columnist for the Indianapolis Star, urged the Pacers not to budge beyond the five years and $44 million they already have offered Stephenson. “Stephenson will never have as good a support system (read: Bird) as he has now in Indianapolis,” Kravitz wrote. “He will never find a group of teammates more willing (however grudgingly) to put up with his antics, both on the practice court and in games. He will never find a fan base more willing to embrace him, a fan base that loves him despite all his warts, much like Ron Artest, the former Pacers All-Star now named Metta World Peace.”

And yet, the one spinout other teams wouldn’t have to worry about that should concern the Pacers is Stephenson and his possible growing impatience with being the team’s “little brother.” He could well be Indiana’s second-best player in 2014-15 behind Paul George but his salary could be fourth- or fifth-highest on the roster.

One thing the Pacers can offer Stephenson that other teams cannot is the comfort zone he has at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, not just with the fans but in his eccentric “Bird Cave.” More pressing at the moment, though, for those who would consider him: caveat emptor.


  1. An NBA Fan says:

    Search the rumor news for this but lance to either Miami or cleveland

  2. Bill says:

    Lance? Even after Bird told him to cool it against the Heat Lance kept up his shenanigans. Just look at what happened to Hibbert after the Pacers gave him big $. Head Case Lance big $ and we’ll be seeing a Big Top clown act.

    Other Pacers are tired of expending all their energy “dealing” with Lance. Bird’s decisions have never panned out (see pathetic trade of Kawhi Leonard to Spurs for George Hill). Dump Lance and his antics. Dump Hibbert and his constant “woe is me” court demeanor. Heck, dump Paul George. THE most unintelligent ball player in the NBA – He’ll NEVER be a leader. (Need proof? Go to ANY of his pressers. Watch as he answers Q’s with cliche’s that he reads from a sheet of paper in front of him that have no relevance to Q’s asked.)

  3. Nick says:

    Not a big supporter of Lance, but that’s clearly a lowball offer. If Gordon Hayward might make around $15 mill, then Lance deserves around the same…

  4. aces says:

    Lance’s so called ‘antics’ get blown out of proportion….I’ve seen a lot of all star n super star caliber players that have done far worse things n more seriously hurtful to the team n they are not blasted the way lance gets criticized. Lance needs to get his money, indy is a dump n he needs to go to a big city that will appreciate his enthusiasm, energy n love for the game. You’re always welcome in philly.

    GO SIXERS!!!!!!

  5. Patty says:

    Stephenson is a Very Good Player and should get more money. Lance, you had too much trust in Larry Bird. Look what Bird has done TO YOU!!!

  6. rich says:

    West, Stephenson and Hibbert should just stay in Indiana – they’re all thugs !

  7. do you know what would be great? Lance to the spurs!! POP can show him how the get it together and how to hoist up a larry’o’brien trophy …. What do you guys think about that?

  8. Bu says:

    Lance is good bu unstable, and that separates him from a guy like Hayward. Bird is not stupid and his offer must have considered all angles. If Lance goes, Pacers need to find a good PG or hybrid / creator as their offense have been in a mess at times.

    Also, Hibbert strangely goes into this downhill slide and must be an attitude issue which prompted Bird to trade him. So looks like a makeover for Pacers next season

  9. paul says:

    I like Lance, he is def a max player at 15 million. He is a future all star and can be a great 2nd of 3rd piece on a championship team. If you disagree then you have not seen him play. He bully’s guys on the offensive end and will be even more dominant in 3-4 years. A man among boys against guys 10 years older then him. No doubt he is going for the big bucks! I would too, that offer is disrespectful and I’m surprised Bird doesn’t know better. He’s your second best player, trade someone to make cap space and get into next years lottery. Cmon Man!!!

  10. Hieston says:

    Of Course Hayward will take the deal in Charlotte I graduated High School with him we grew up watching MJ he gets a great shot at making the Playoffs in the East compared to the West especially in Utah He wants to win. I would have liked to see Stephenson leave and Hayward come to Indy but I think now I’m going to be a “Band Wagon Hornets Fan” they have the best jerseys, Cody Zeller, Noah Vonleh, and now Hayward plus Gordon has already played with Al Jefferson this is perfect. MJ will bring out the best in Gordon guarantee he is an All Star within two years

  11. Ryan says:

    Hayward is in demand, Lance isn’t. Plain and simple. Hayward was bound to get at least 12 million, 15 is just icing on the top to really get his motor kicking next year. We can’t have guys lingering growing pains with uncertain futures.

    Hayward has no reason to want to leave. He has big bucks, starting role, and a great young team. He already put in a lot of time, it would be a shame to see him jump onto someone else train. Then again, Jazz got to do what they got to do, keep Hayward.

  12. harrythehawk says:

    Yeah, go play overseas son.

  13. btyler says:

    A pretty good read.

    Lance is like a highly-volatile element. If he stays in Indiana, he could be the new Westbrook and Durant. If he goes to Brooklyn, he could be the new Kobe Bryant. If he goes to Miami, he could be the next LeBron (all fanhate included). Or if he goes to the Lakers, he could be the next Darius Miles. If he goes to Boston, he could be the next Gilbert Arenas. I don’t know, there’s no facts in any of this, but that’s the thing about Lance: you never know. As a Pacers fan, I hope he returns for a non-outrageous amount, but plays to earn a better deal later.

    • squala96 says:

      Lance is hardly comparable to most of the players you mentioned. He’s only there to annoy his rivals, with in-and-out performances.

  14. pokie says:

    It just goes to show that you can put a price on mental stability.

  15. Basketball Junkie says:

    I care

  16. Liam says:

    Lance is worth the 8-figure dollar contract.

  17. Flexy says:

    I didn’t read this article, I saw it and felt compelled to write WHO CARES!!!!