May 30, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson (1) is defended by Miami Heat guard Ray Allen (34) during the second half in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Pacers Want Lance Stephenson Back, but It Will Depend on Market

Should the Pacers re-sign Lance Stephenson? It is the biggest question of the summer, and the outcome may well prove to be a turning point for the franchise.

If he leaves in free agency, and they can’t replace his contributions (spoiler alert: they almost certainly cannot given salary cap concerns), we have likely already seen the peak of this current era.

If he stays for big money, consensus thought says that Indiana could either overcome this season’s setbacks to further improve or that his, let’s say, personality quirks could become more deleterious and the team would be saddled with a problem while failing to get any better.

But those possibilities, while making for interesting thought exercises, probably don’t matter as much as the realities of market economics.

Because according to Larry Bird, speaking at a season-end press conference yesterday, said that the team wants to keep him. And that whether or not they do will likely depend on how much other teams offer.

The Associated Press’ Michael Marot asked the all-important question.

What are the Pacers willing to pay to keep Stephenson?

”We’ve talked about it briefly, but I haven’t sat down with the owner (Herb Simon) yet,” Bird said. ”There’s going to be a price and we’re not going to go over that.”

The Pacers are a small-market team that, reportedly, lost money for much of the decade preceding the 2011 lockout. They have needed public financing assistance to help pay for the burden of operating The Fieldhouse. Owner Herb Simon reportedly, and for an understandable rationale, will not go over the luxury tax line for the team’s salary.

All this means that, if the price is too high, Stephenson won’t be back. Unless he is willing to offer the Pacers a home-town discount. Though we’re talking about a guy who, in four years of playing professional basketball, is a relative pauper, making less than $3.5 million in his career thus far, according to Basketball-Reference.

Marc Stein of ESPN recently reported that the free agent market for Stephenson, due to his antics and other quirks, is “drying up.”

Stephenson has turned off potential free-agent suitors with his unreliability — ever since being snubbed for the Eastern Conference All-Star team — as much or more than he’s annoyed fellow Pacers. His free-agent market, according to the latest rumbles on the personnel grapevine, is already drying up. And it’s not even June 1 yet.

Of course, it only takes one GM to reverse that entirely. Still, if the market for Lance is soft, then it means the Pacers have a better chance at re-signing him for their top salary offer. Then again, it also means that they want Stephenson more than anyone else — and we won’t which side made the better choice until after the ink on the contract is dry.

As Bird also mentioned yesterday, “You just don’t let talent like [Lance] walk away if you can help it.” So if they can re-sign him for cheaper than it looked possible to just a few months ago, that could be great. Or they might just be the next team to experience the winner’s curse.

Tags: Indiana Pacers Lance Stephenson Larry Bird

  • Jack Wright

    If I were Lance my mind would’ve been made up the second I heard that Vogel’s returning next year.. I’d be outta here.

  • Ian

    I was thinking about this and I think in a way Lance being an UFA is actually a good thing.

    It means that another team can’t offer him a poison pill contract and force the Pacers to match something they can’t afford to for cap reasons.

    Lets say some team offers him 4x10M. The Pacers could offer him 6, 9, 12, 14 plus incentives for the last couple of years. Everyone but PG is off the books after 2 seasons anyway, and the cap is increasing faster than people anticipated, so this would be relatively easy to do plus give them some room to add to the bench.

    • disqus_atlq8Zmtsd

      The question becomes if that contract you suggest ends up being a poison pill for the Pacers. Like you said, everyone is off the books in a couple years. That is when Lance’s contract would start really chewing into the salary cap.

      But like you said, the new media deal will be a game changer.

      • Ian

        One thing I’d want to confirm: Is a player’s cap number determined by the average value of their contract of the year to year pay? If its the latter, then having an increasing value deal is ideal for the Pacers, since they’ll have way more money to spend in 2 years.

        • disqus_atlq8Zmtsd

          I’m not 100%, but I think it depends. Like the Big 3 in Miami I believe it is the current year, not the average.

  • Joe Betz

    Lance will not take a home team discount–he essentially has done that the past two years, and it’s his time to get paid. His antics probably cost him some money, but that is good news for the Pacers. Lance led the league in triple-doubles and is one of the few Pacers who can finish around the rim. My guess: the Pacers offer Lance a 3 year 20 million dollar deal, during which time he will either blossom into a 10+ million dollar a year player or be traded / not re-signed.

    I also think some team will pay him 8mil a year and he will take it. George Hill makes 8mil a year. Some team will offer him that much money and he will take it.