No matter where you sit on the Lance Stephenson scale of love and hate, you know the Indiana Pacers have come to the reality that change is needed. Indiana loses a 14 points per a game scorer that added a jolt of energy to a disorganized Indiana offense. For some this is good riddance to a player with a perchance for antics getting in the way. For others it is a young talent slipping away.
As usual when news happens the 8P9S Roundtable team assembles to breakdown what’s next for the Pacers.
How badly does losing Lance hurt Indiana?
Shane Young: Losing Lance puts them in a stranglehold on offense, not having any idea who can be their next play maker to create something out of nothing. Too many times last season did we see the offense stagnate, and nobody seemed to have a head between their shoulders. He led the team in Rebounding percentage per chance, and also drives per game. Meaning, mostly everything that was created came off of Lance, and when it wasn’t …. it was Paul George’s horrible isolation. Something’s got to happen, and I don’t believe Rodney Stuckey is the answer.
What will suffer more: the offense or the defense?
Young: The offense. Defensively, the Pacers were much more than just Lance Stephenson last season, and the year before as well. If they hang on to Hibbert and truly “stay the course,” you’ll once again see a top two or three defensive squad in the East. That’s just how the players resonate, and how that certain head coach likes to teach.
Washburn: Defense. From February on, the Pacers had the second worst offense in the league, only beating the Philadelphia 76ers who were actively trying to be awful. I’m not sure the offense can get any worse. Defensively though, Lance could guard three positions, always fought hard, and was able to spell Paul George from guarding the other team’s best player. If the defense even slips a little, Indiana could quickly turn into an average basketball team.
Will downgrading from Lance to CJ Miles or Rodney Stuckey be their whole offseason or are more moves coming?
Sartori: I think more moves are coming. Bird knows that a contending window doesn’t last forever, so he likely doesn’t want to waste too much time. He did well to quickly pick up Stuckey on a one year deal, but that only accounts for a bit of Lance’s production. It could be a big trade, or it could be a small signing, but I don’t think Bird has finished tinkering with the roster.
Washburn: I would love to say that more moves are coming, but it’s hard to see one that moves the needle that much. You have to give up something in order to get something and while changing the team’s identity might make some fans happy, I’m not sure it makes the Pacers a better basketball team.
Can Indiana even make it back to the Eastern Conference Finals without Lance?
Sartori: I think so. They finished in the third seed and made it to the conference finals in 2013 when Lance put up just 9 and 4, which shows that their success didn’t ride on him. Also, despite a few teams having solid offseasons, the East is still weak. I expect it will come down to the Cavs, Pacers, and – if healthy – the Bulls as to who comes out of the East. The Wizards, Raptors and Heat may not be too far behind.
Washburn: Yes, but only if either Chicago or Cleveland can’t stay healthy. Without injury woes to either of those teams, the Pacers are simply inferior to both.
What will you personally miss most about watching Lance?
Young: Personally, I’ll miss the confidence he showed night in and night out. That, and the repeated tongue sticking out while making a huge play. The kid was one of the only reasons it was worth sitting up in media row, waiting for the game to end on the nights where the Pacers got battered. He’s a type of character that you can sit down and talk to for 15 or so minutes and get nothing but the heartfelt truth. Those talks, gathering information for him, is what I’ll miss too.
Sartori: His flair. Lance has that Iverson-type swagger that you don’t come across too often in a player, in that he often looks like he’s playing in a pick up game. He’s not scared to make a flashy play or take a big shot (a blessing and a curse), and can spark a run and bring the crowd to it’s feet.
Washburn: I will actually miss all the “other stuff.” He was the only player that you could really count on to bring it every night. I loved his passion. I loved how he wore his emotions on his sleeves. I loved the memes. He was my favorite Pacer.