Listen Live

Joe Robbins | Getty Images


INDIANAPOLIS – Have we seen the end of another Lance Stephenson tenure with the Pacers?

 

It appears that could be happening, after the Pacers declined Stephenson’s $4.3 million team option for the 2018-19 season.

 

Although this move would be because the Pacers have now had enough of Stephenson, unlike Lance leaving them back in 2014 for more money.

 

“This was a very difficult decision, but as free agency begins on July 1, we want to have flexibility so that we can prepare for all of our available options,” Pacers team president Kevin Pritchard said of the move in a team release.

 

While the Pacers could still try and sign Stephenson, 27, to a longer-term free agent deal, the $4.3 million price tag on him for next season was extremely affordable. Plus, the Pacers would have had a very motivated Stephenson in 2018-19, playing on a contract year.

 

This, on paper, has the look that the Pacers have had enough of Stephenson’s volatile nature that has kept the young guard entertaining to fans, while a bit maddening to those employing him

 

“Sometimes he’s the best player on our team. Sometimes he’s the best player on the other team,” Pritchard said of Stephenson earlier this offseason.

 

Pritchard has loved the ‘no fear’ nature that Stephenson plays with, which has routinely been on display during games against LeBron James in the past two years.

 

But Stephenson’s antics have frustrated the Pacers and no matter how inexpensive the price tag, this could very well be the end for Lance in Indiana.

 

Last season, Stephenson averaged 9.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists in playing all 82 games. As a key, versatile guard off the bench, Stephenson was a double-digit scorer in the Pacers’ 7-game series against the Cavaliers, while also providing solid defense on LeBron.

 

Over the course of an 82-game season, Stephenson was a much-needed spark off the bench, contributing in a multitude of ways. Stephenson’s second stint with the Pacers saw the former second-round pick re-find form that was absent in playing for 5 teams after leaving Indiana in the summer of 2014.

 

Reasons for the Pacers declining such a small team option on Stephenson do extend past just his unpredictable behavior.

 

The Pacers are adamant they need to add more shooting and Stephenson was a streaky shooter, especially for a player logging minutes in the backcourt.

 

This decision does free up some more cap space, allowing the Pacers to go after more of a shooting option for a bench presence (i.e. Will Barton). More seasoned guards like Tyreke Evans or Marcus Smart, albeit guys more in line with Stephenson’s shooting ability, could be in the mix as well.

 

Indiana will definitely need to go find another guard if this is it for Stephenson and the Pacers. Even though Indiana drafted Aaron Holiday, he is just 6-1. The Pacers must find a versatile backup to Victor Oladipo, who can even play alongside the All-Star, while defending taller guards.

 

Unlike many playoff teams, the Pacers will enter the summer with cap space to make a move or two. And they look to now be in the mix for a high-level bench player in the backcourt.