Lance Stephenson has been a journeyman over the last few NBA seasons, but one thing has remained consistent. There is no question that he plays his best basketball with the Indiana Pacers.
After signing a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers to team up with LeBron James last offseason, Stephenson is set to hit free agency once again this year. Returning to the Lakers could be an option, but so could another homecoming to Indiana. It might very well best his best bet.
Kevin Pritchard and the Pacers are coming off of a roller-coaster season that saw Victor Oladipo go down with a season-ending quad injury in the middle of the year. They still won 48 games and finished the year as the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Now, they are heading into a big offseason with a lot of cap space and plenty of roster openings.
Indiana has been connected to names like Mike Conley, D’Angelo Russell, Terry Rozier, and Khris Middleton looking ahead to free agency. Reports have also surfaced that the Pacers would like to re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic and Thaddeus Young if they can get them at the right price. Stephenson hasn’t been connected with the Pacers yet, but it would not be a shocking reunion.
How could Stephenson end up back in Indiana? That is a fairly simple question to answer.
If the Pacers are able to make a splash on a max contract free agent this offseason, they are going to need to fill out their roster with cheaper contract. Stephenson could be had for a deal in the $3-5 million range, which might be exactly the kind of role player that Indiana is looking for. They are also going to need a creator and playmaker off the bench after the failed experiment with Tyreke Evans.
With the Lakers, Stephenson ended up averaging 7.2 points per game to go along with 3.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists. He shot 42.6 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from the 3-point arc.
The fans in Indiana love Stephenson and he is a ticket seller. If the Pacers find themselves looking for a wing or two to come off the bench, bringing Lance back will become a real option. Indiana tried to re-sign Stephenson last offseason before he ended up agreeing to a deal with L.A.
Both the Pacers and Stephenson have left another reunion on the table. They are still big fans of each other and the love is apparent for both sides. With the Pacers trying to create a contender, adding Stephenson as a key bench piece would certainly be something to look into.
Obviously, there are going to be a few other teams with interest in Stephenson. Pritchard and company may not view him as a priority, but they could do much, much worse from a depth perspective.
It may not be “probable” that Stephenson returns, but the fit is legitimate and it would make sense.
Stephenson has made it clear that Indiana is home to him. He took a chance and signed with the Lakers last offseason and that experiment didn’t quite work out as planned. Returning to Indiana, where he has had a ton of success and is loved unconditionally, would be a great way to rebound.
Expect to see the Pacers be one of the most active teams on the free agency and trade market. They may fill the holes on their roster with other players, but reuniting with Stephenson should certainly be something that they keep in mind as the pieces start to fall into place.