Could Lance Stephenson Be Indiana's Sixth Man?

When Lance Stephenson was drafted by the Indiana Pacers in the second round back in 2010, many expected it to be a steal since he was a star in high school nicknamed Born Ready. However, mediocre play and maturity issues have surrounded Stephenson’s NBA career so far.

However, Stephenson hasn’t had a full chance to develop yet and he could be a quality player for Indiana off the bench. Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star writes that Stephenson could be the sixth man of the team next year.

“I’ll be surprised if Leandro Barbosa, who had that role after being acquired from Toronto in March, is re-signed. Stephenson has continued to mature on and off the court. … Don’t hand Stephenson the job, but give him a shot at it because it’s time to see if he’s ready to handle being the sixth man.”

Stephenson does have potential and has shown some signs of it this season when he was able to get playing time. He will have to do a lot more, however, to overcome the main highlight for Stephenson’s pro career: throwing up a choke sign at the Heat’s bench during a series the Pacers lost.

Topics: Lance Stephenson, Miami Heat, Sixth Man

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  • Realist


    Assuming our roster remains as is, Hansbrough for West is typically the first sub and it should remain that way simply due to us taking care of West the way we should. Barbosa came in around that time as well or earlier if PG was in foul trouble. (Barbosa appears to be gone mind you – and I’d rather have Dahntay on the wing to be honest, but I’m a bit of a DJ-homer in that regard)

    Also, this implies that you’d rather have Lance vault up the rotation than simply put DC in and slide Hill over to the 2/combo spot.

    The draft/free-agency period will probably shake things up, but if we wind up with Lance that high in our rotation then we probably did something wrong.

  • gregor t.

    The only way Lance Stephenson helps the Pacers next year is by proving he can guard D. Wade in the playoffs. Am i the only one who thinks if the Pacers had a healthy Jeff Foster off the bench to protect the rim against James and Wade and rebound on both ends, the Pacers win that series in six? Aside from Collison, our bench was terrible on both ends. Either the Pacers upgrade the “Playoff Bench” or Vogel needs to play the starters 40+min. against the Heat.

  • gregor t.

    I think a bigger question should be: Will DC re-sign with the Pacers next year if he spends the year coming off the bench? I gotta say I doubt it. Maybe the Pacers half-court style doesn’t fit his strenghts. But i gotta say, GHill and DC might be one of the best PG combos in the league. They can win if they stay together with the Pacers. The grass is pretty green in Indy playing for the Pacers these days, even if the money can’t quite match South Beach!

  • Aaron

    I thought Stephenson was making the choke sign at LeBron James after James bricked a technical free throw during a Heat loss. It’s a small detail, but I’m always a fan of telling things accurately, especially since this is how stories get exaggerated.

    On the main subject, from what I’ve seen, I think Lance has shown impressive growth this past season, both in his game and his maturity. There are moments when he plays where he seems to see the court like no other (not even the player receiving his pass, which can be a problem). If he can reduce the silly mistakes, he’d be a good sixth man and could solve some of the bench’s scoring difficulties.

  • NoLookPass

    Sure if we want to be the 7th or 8th seed at best. He shot it great in the last game of the year but he’s shot just 32.9% as a pro outside of that game. In that game he played with starters the first 3 quarters to take the heat off him and got 12 of the 22 in the 4th when it was garbage time and everyone was trying to not get hurt before playoffs. He isn’t going get that benefit of those being the 6th man and also in that game he literally passed the ball once and it was affter he held the ball for the first 20 seconds and couldn’t get a shot off only to hit a cutter at end of the clock.

    The fact this is one of the first things talked about this summer makes me worry about what the plan is going to be for next year. I expect Tyler and DC along with the pick to be shopped around but having any talk of Lance as 6th man is strange to say the least since he finished 12th in MP this year.

  • gregor t.

    Aaron, Since when does a 12th man on the bench flashing a choke sign to the best team in the east, when he hasn’t played and his team just gained a huge advantage in the playoffs, show any kind of maturity? Considering the Heat kicked the Pacers ass the next 3 games, I am thinking Lance didn’t do the Pacers any frigging favors. Was it his fault they lost? Maybe not. Did his new found “maturity” help in any way? You tell me.

  • gregor t.

    It takes time to build a contender in Indy. And a true Pacers 6th man should be C.Mullen, B.Scott, D.Mckey, BigSmooth, Al Harrington, Antonio Davis, etc. So stop with this Lance Stephenson talk. When he does something like those players did something, then maybe we can talk. Til then???

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  • Derek U

    I hope not.. The ball stops when it’s in his hands. He may have been born ready in highschool, and playing the street ball but he’s a terrible team player that still needs a ton of work. Not saying it’s impossible, just stating that he needs to make some strides this off season and not be tossing bitches down a set of stairs.

  • Mike

    I gotta say, when Lance played some steady minutes with some actual meaning, he looked like a competent bball player at times. You can’t judge him in the 1-2 minute garbage time games. Everyone is looking for their shot and no plays are ever run. He has some great vision and I think he probably made at least 3 or 4 of the best passes we saw all year from a Pacer player. That being said, he has to figure IT out. If he can’t, he’ll be stuck at the end of the bench. Hitting jumpshots might help his cause a little too. 6th man is not happening. We’ll see how his game grows this summer and preseason. I’d love for him to advance his game and add to Larry’s legend as a basketball god.

  • Melon

    Sixth man hell, they ought to waive his dumb ass.

  • Jesse

    It would be dumb to waive him. He wasn’t able to keep the backup 1 position from AJ, but that didn’t surprise me. AJ is crafty and confident. But Lance has a mix of skills and athleticism that make him intriguing. He needs to get minutes–as long as he isn’t screwing them up. But he hasn’t earned 6th man minutes yet, although he could. Next year will be make or break for his future with the team.

  • Aj

    Lance is one of those guys that you look at the raw talent and athleticism and you say to yourself that this guy could be a meaningful contributor. People need to stop getting on him about the choke sign. He got more than his fair share of criticism from the team, and retribution from Juwan Howard and Dexter Pittman’s flinging bows, and I think that’s something he’s learned from, so its in the past as is this season. It’s far too early to talk about him being a six man especially considering we have DC and Psycho T coming off the bench. His play is too erratic, and he still lacks the basic fundamentals of making the right reads and what not. However, I’ve also seen some pretty sweet plays as well and he does have good vision. Everyone remembers Paul George’s double pump slam against the Nets, but no one seems to remember that it was Lance Stephenson who found him on the break and threw a perfect pass. Another good thing to note about Stephenson is the fact that he has way more upside than the Brazilian Blur who is well past his 6th man of the year days. Born Ready may not be ready for a 6th man spot, but it can’t hurt to keep developing and give him more minutes to see if he can make the cut. This is a guy after all who was drafted in the second round, his contract isn’t guaranteed, so he definitely has something to prove. If his maturity improves, I could see him contributing on the second unit with Collison, Hansbourgh, Fesenko, and draft pick 26th (hopefully Draymond Green, Royce White, or Andrew Nicholson) as the backup SF.

  • PG24ShootMore

    I gotta agree with Mike here. Garbage time can’t be a good judge of ability. Judge the game where he actually got decent minutes. You don’t understand how good this kid is right now as is. I was at the Indy Pro-Am every week during the lockout and when he played be was easily the best player on the court. That includes players like Alec Berks, E’twaun Moore, Eric Gordon, and even George Hill. Yeah he has maturity issues. Yeah he’s inexperienced. But guess what? He’s been growing up. And with 82 games in a season he has plenty of time to learn. Besides, Barbosa was a black hole that shot horribly and played no defense. If that’s everyones conception of how Lance plays why not give him a shot? I can legitimitely see Lance being a Jamal (sp?) Crawford type of player who comes off the bench and gives you 10-15 points with an assist or two. Larry Bird believes in him and he’s built this great team from scratch. I think we should trust his judgement and believe in Lance too.

  • PG24ShootMore

    I also agree with AJ but god help us all if Fesenko is in our second unit.

  • Aj

    hahaha obviously Lou will be the first guy you comes in for Hibbert, but regardless of his lack of any coherent offensive game and excessive foul trouble, the Big Russian causes frustration for just about any post player that he’s matched up against. And statistics back that up. He’s got a solid 4 inches and 55 pounds on Lou. I think you bring in Lou off the bench if you want a better running game, and bring Fesenko in when you want to hold down the fort and up the defensive pressure.

  • Joe B

    Larry Bird has said he is “bullish” on Stephenson, by which I expect he means that he has to deal with a lot of people questioning Lance’s ability, maturity, and future production in the NBA, but he isn’t losing faith. If Lance has a great off-season and strong training camp, there is no reason why he could not act as a points guy off the bench. Of course, James Harden is the king of that role, but if Lance can model his game after Harden’s, the Pacers might have a dynamic (young) scorer in the works.

    Continue to develop Lance, resign the starters, upgrade the center position so the Pacers can grab a rebound with Roy out. I second a previous post that if Jeff Foster could grab boards and play strong defense, the Pacers win the series

  • Jesse

    One thing that I like about Lance–great body language on the bench. Always very engaged, cheering on his teammates. That does not translate to on court success necessarily, but it does suggest that his days of fighting with teammates in the locker room are over.

  • Marcus

    I like the idea. If the Heat proved anything it’s that you don’t have to have top tier TEAM players (as much as that pains me to say, and goes against everything basketball is about), but more about individual players that can be complemented by a lesser talented/paid surrounding cast. That being said, the Pacers do have enough solid core guys to already out-shine most of the NBA, BUT are still that one piece away from being really special. Stephenson’s small contract, flexibility at the 1 & 2, surprisingly improved defense, and ability to play good in clean-up time towards the end of the season has earned him a rotation spot. Even if it’s not first off the bench. The real objective if that move were to happen could facilitate what the Pacers main objective should be. The pursuit of Derron Williams!! Although I love George Hill, unfortunately he’s the odd man out if that dream is to become a reality (at least in terms of tough decisions to make this off-season. Even if Hill was rescinded and Williams choose to opt elsewhere (looking that way), then you at least leave the necessary future cap room to pursue what the Pacers need most. A top tier guy who can score off the bounce. Plus we didn’t fare too bad with Collison at the point anyway. Do the right thing Larry. The Pacers may not be the sexiest market. But with a Derron Williams in the fold? Then suddenly the Pacers become something much more than a feel good comeback story who gave the Heat a good run. I mean really Williams, PG, Danny, West, and Hibb!?!? The Pacers are the best available team, with the necessary money to pay him, with the best available young core that would allow Williams to compete for titles for the rest of his career.AND he’s a B1G TEN guy, lol.. Anyhow, GO PACERS!!!

  • PG24ShootMore

    I hate Deron Williams. He is a man of little character. And he’s had his time to mature. He is not a player I’d be happy to see on my beloved Pacers. The way he carries himself and the attitude he has towards his teammates and coaches sickens me.

  • Pervis

    I strongly disagree. Stephenson has all of the physical tools. Barbosa has the mental tools. Dahntay Jones cost us a game in the regular season because of MENTAL mistakes. I don’t think that Stephenson will ever develop the savvy, heady, mental side necessary to contribute to a playoff caliber team. His talents are best displayed for a show-offy, highlight-reel team that is more interested in making sports center than in getting the W. David West brought savvy basketball smarts to Indiana. I TRUSTED him down the stretch to not give the game away. I wish we had more head-smart, moderately basketball players like West and Barbosa than a team full of Lance Stephensons.

  • Ronal Eugene is Right!!

    You think it’s possible that Lance could make a leap next year and become a solid player? Maybe it’s time to trade him.

  • trifecta3131

    Lance is WAY too reckless with the rock in his hands. He dribbles it to death, has no game plan of what he wants to do with it, & that results in bad plays (turnovers, near turnovers, & bad shot selection). Could he continue to work on those things & get better? …I mean, I guess so, but I wouldn’t bet money on it. He’s a street baller trying to fit in the NBA. If the Pacers waived him today, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash. But if he becomes 6th man (our best bench player), I’d say we’re in deep $%^&. His best case scenario is the Pacers don’t waive him & he gets 10 min/game instead of 2 min/game

  • Marcus

    sorry he is a bust trade him and a 1st round pick for cook from OKC.

  • Marcus

    im from indy, i love my Pacer and Colts but man Lance to me this season is a bust. Not if his comes in off a good summer work out and provide some pts and d fense to the bench. but that a long reach maybe.

  • papapapatrick

    i’m pro born ready. one of our problems was that our team was low on shot creators, lance stephenson can create a shot for himself and others, its just a matter of not doing too much.

  • papapapatrick

    he’ll have to grow a ton in order to be our 6th best right now though.

  • Realist

    Update on the Morway situation coming? Apparently he was the one who blew the Mayo deal and Bird was not happy.

    If we get Pritchard as GM, no complaints.

  • gregor t.

    If Morway could have got Mayo for McBob and didn’t make it happen he should be fired. Last i heard was Memphis still wants to move OJ. Except now they, allegedly, want Collison as a back-up for Conley, plus cash. Rumor? Yes. Still a good deal? Well, Maybe. What is the better back court; GHill, DCollison, and PGeorge? Or GHill, PGeorge, and OJ Mayo? Tough call. If Morway would have pulled the trigger, the Pacers could have had all four in there back-court, for McBob! Damn! Frankly, i don’t know who is to blame for that HUGE mistake. Fact is, someone must take the fall. Looks like Morway this time.

  • Realist

    Yeah, the McBob/Mayo screwup was horrific then and even moreso looking back. We did get Lou for Rush though.

    But, we could’ve/would’ve/should’ve had the Juice damnit! This whole title run just past. Ugh

  • gregor t.

    Pervis, Barbosa is mental alright. He didn’t hit a shot, not one, and couldn’t even guard Chalmers much less D.Wade . How many stupid turnovers did he have off the bench with his huge mental abilities that cost the Pacers game 5 and 6? You had it right with D.West being a leader. I agree. And he will improve next year, too. But Barbosa got schooled bad by the Heat. 7.5 mil to dribble the ball out of bounds three, four times a game in the playoffs? Can’t hit any shots? Mental? Yep! Future Pacer? Uh, no.

  • little B

    Lance as the Pacers sixth man seems like a reach. Collison or Hansborough would be there for now. Could Lance replace Barbosa’s position? I believe so. He has the size and athletic ability. Had a couple good games this year. He is an individual player just as much as Hansborough is. Both seem to get the ball and never give it up. Lance on the court the same time our starters are on there is probably not a good mix, but honestly who knows what he can bring to the table. He needs to see more playing time to show us what he really can do. This could be Larry’s worst homer, or Larry could show us again why he is the best if he finds this diamond in the rough.

  • B-Nice

    For all of the constant chatter about how the Pacers lack players that can create their own shots, I’m continually surprised at how much people dismiss the potential of Lance. This kid is young, hella athletic, he’s got nice handles, is a great passer, and can get to the cup at will. Sure, his jump shot needs some work, especially from range, but his form is very good for a so called “street baller.” He has a tremendous base to work from and this will improve greatly over time IMO. From what I’ve seen in his limited playing time thus far, he’s just young and lacks some experience. He’s seems nervous at times when he’s on the floor, but that’s to be expected from a young kid that’s getting limited PT and trying “not to make a mistake” on the floor when he’s in. I’m betting that if he’s able to get more PT and thus gets to a point where he feels as though he has a more secure and consistent role on this team moving forward, his comfort level out there will improve dramatically, and great thing will follow for this team. This kid is nice. He’s a hard worker, and I love his enthusiasm for the game. Don’t be surprised if Lance eventually becomes the star of this team. His future is bright.

  • Joe B

    @ B-Nice. I wanted to trackback to this post and see any developments. I have to agree with you, mostly, but I don’t think he will be a starter, at least not with the Pacers. The Pacers only real hope for Lance would be 10-15ppg off the bench (which would be great) through aggressive, mostly individual play. I’m hoping he surprises me with his passing rather than his athleticism. Pacers need someone who can create his own shot AND give others open looks.

  • B-Nice

    @ Joe B, I can see your scenario with Lance unfolding as well, but I’m betting, or maybe just hoping, that he develops faster and into a more complete player than many people believe he will. I think he is a very unique talent, and therefore it’s difficult to compare him to other players or situations, and that makes it tough to predict his potential. It seems as though most people feel like he is a roll of the dice, “man it would be nice to hit the high numbers, but chance is not in our favor.” I personally like the chances of Lance improving and becoming a solid, if not great player on this team for years to come. More than anything right now though, I think we need another skilled post player that is just farely solid all around; can do the little things like defend picknroll, has a decent enough post up game, can pass out of the post, has a decent midrange game, can rebound, has great size, and absolutely can shoot free throws. I have no tolerance for poor free throw shooting, and neither should the PACERS. You cannot win championships with poor freethrow shooting, bottom line (exception made for freak of nature Shaq). A Nick Collison type of player would fit the bill. I suppose all teams are looking for that, but that is our biggest need IMO. I’m not worried about breaking the bank on adding another “scorer” or potential “6th man” at this point, outside of signing someone at an affordable rate, just to add more quality depth. Lance should fit that bill next year to some extent providing GHill and Roy are resigned. We need to get bigger, period! That should be our central focus.