NBA Rumors: Lance Stephenson to the Pistons or Hornets?
The 2014 NBA Finals are officially over and the San Antonio Spurs are the big winners of this past NBA season. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and their company redeemed themselves after a devastating loss last year. Now, after this celebration period finishes, another significant begins. You guess right, I am talking about the upcoming free agency. One of the most talented but also controversial free agents, one of the most wanted ones is Indiana Pacers’ guard Lance Stephenson. The 23–year old emerging star with the eccentric personality is coming off the best season of his career in the NBA and there is a bunch of teams eager to land him. Two of the strongest favorites for his acquisition are the Detroit Pistons and the Charlotte Hornets, formerly known as Charlotte Bobcats. Let’s break down each scenario and try to predict where Stephenson will play next season.
Stephenson was one of the most significant overachievers in the NBA last season. He made such a difference with his game and he improved so much that the Indiana Pacers decided to trust him as their starting shooting guard. With Stephenson’s big contributions in mind and his ability to emerge as one of the team’s leaders the Pacers decided to trade away their former star swingman Danny Granger. It didn’t take long for Stephenson to prove this move was the right one. The 23–year old guard defended the starting role with ease and he finished second in the voting for the Most Improved Player of the Season, trailing only Goran Dragic.
Despite his antics both on and off the court, the Indiana Pacers are still eager to bring him back next season and in fact, sign him for a long term. In order to do so, the Pacers will have to offer Stephenson around $10 million per year. However, this is something Larry Bird and the Pacers will think twice before they make it happen. There is little question about Lance Stephenson’s talent. What’s under question is his ability to emerge as the co–leader of a title contending team like the Indiana Pacers. Sure Stephenson can be ultra-aggressive when on the court and he be a solid contributor. However, the Pacers are looking to win a championship and they’ll need something more than scoring and playing defense to achieve that. Each member of the team will need to have the mentality and the maturity needed in order to compete at the highest level. At the moment, Stephenson doesn’t seem to be that guy.
The Pistons do have the potential to at least make it to the playoffs next season. In fact, they possessed several quality pieces in their roster even last season but they couldn’t make them work in sync. With Stan Van Gundy onboard and at the head of basketball operations, Detroit is looking for ways to improve its chances to do better in 2014 – 2015. The addition of Lance Stephenson seems to be a move towards that direction. Rodney Stuckey will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and Chauncey Billups, for whom the Pistons hold a team option, will be 38 next season. It’s obvious that Detroit will need an upgrade in its backcourt and Stephenson seems to be a great fit.
Apart from his scoring and his aggressiveness, Lance Stephenson could emerge as a star in Detroit. With no Paul George or Roy Hibbert alongside him, the Cincinnati product will have more room to operate and a bigger role in the team’s rotations. Stephenson also seems to be a good fit alongside Brandon Jennings.
The Charlotte Hornets are looking to make the difference this summer. As Michael Jordan stated, the team has money to spend and it will try to make some big moves, those which will solidify its position as a playoff – caliber team in the Eastern Conference. With the big fat contract of Ben Gordon off the books, Charlotte will now have enough room to bring Stephenson and also some other capable, quality players to form a competitive ensemble around Al Jefferson.
Charlotte seems to be another great destination for Lance Stephenson and it’s not just because of the presence of Jefferson. Kemba Walker is another significant piece in the Hornets’ mix and he seems to be a player with whom Lance Stephenson fits perfectly. Charlotte made it to the seventh spot in the East this past season although there was clearly not much talent onboard. Apart from Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker, Charlotte didn’t have those players who can step up during the postseason and make big plays. That’s another reason why Michael Jordan is eyeing Stephenson. If the Hornets want to seriously compete for a better course during the postseason, they will have to try and add some young but capable players like Stephenson around Jefferson.
Other potential destinations
The Indiana Pacers, of course, still remain one of the top destinations for Lance Stephenson. Unless the 23 – year old guard becomes too expensive for Indiana, Larry Bird is projected to make a strong push towards re-signing him. But if Stephenson’s financial ambitions become too high, look for the Pacers to pass and seek for better options for their starting shooting guard spot.
The New Orleans Pelicans are another potential destination for Stephenson. The Pelicans are a young, emerging team with tons of potential for the future and there is no question that Stephenson would fit in such a situation.
Brian Shaw’s Denver Nuggets is another team which could be interesting in acquiring Stephenson. Shaw has a good relationship with the emerging star and the Nuggets also have lots of room in their salary cap. In addition, Stephenson and Kenneth Faried would form one of the most aggressive duos in the entire NBA.