UPDATE 7/3: The Pacers signed Tyreke Evans to a one-year, $12 million contract.
Disclaimer: I’ve publicly been a huge Born Ready guy. I love what he does. It’s fun.
Lance Stephenson is something that we had never seen in blue and gold, and something we may never experience again. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, either.
Lance did things that aren’t in a box score: agitate, hustle, hype, flair. But when it came to things in the box score, it wasn’t always pretty.
After Lance left the Pacers in 2014 and signed a big deal with Charlotte, it was clear that he only seemed to work in Indy. He bounced around to the Clippers, Grizzlies, Pelicans, and Timberwolves before eventually returning to the Hoosier state for the 2017 season. In that 2017 season, Lance mostly came off the bench in a sixth man-type role. Some of the top sixth men in the league make massive impacts on their teams and are able to carry the scoring load for the second unit. Unfortunately for Indiana, Lance wasn’t quite able to do that.
Stephenson averaged 9.2 points per game in the Pacers’ 2017-2018 campaign. In the context of the entire roster, that’s 7th best behind Domantas Sabonis (11.6 PPG). Being the primary ball handler of that second unit most of the time, he just wasn’t able to get shots to fall. The hustle plays are great, but wins are better.
The Pacers front office wants wins.
Could Indy decide to re-sign Lance once they address other free agent opportunities? Sure. Will they? I doubt it. “Lance is irreplaceable!” the fans say. I say you can get double the production for the same contract.
The Pacers are rumored to be looking at Tyreke Evans and/or Will Barton in free agency this summer. Personally, I’m on the Tyreke Evans bandwagon. Hell, I’m driving the damn thing.
Last season with Memphis, Evans did everything better than Lance, other than Lance grabbing 0.1 more rebounds per game.
More production means more money, right? Not necessarily. Stephenson’s option was for about $4.3 million. Last season, Evans only made a hair shy of $3.3 million. The Pacers could realistically sign Evans to slightly more than Lance was going to make, probably in the ballpark of $5-6 million, but possibly get almost double the production.
Having that fan-favorite guy is great. Having that agitator who isn’t afraid to go after the other team’s best player is awesome. But when your team came within one game of knocking off the best player on the planet, you have to reevaluate where you are and where you can improve. Declining Lance’s option was a business decision, and that decision could pay off very well for the Pacers in the near future. If they can sign Evans or Barton with their new-found cap space and sign Lance to a new contract before some other team picks him up, then everybody’s happy.