May 20, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Miami Heat guard Dwayne Wade (3) defends against Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson (1) in game two of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

8P9S Roundtable: Lance Stephenson has left the building

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.

Will Rettig: Losing Lance hurts, but how badly won’t be known until the season gets underway. As of right now, it looks bad in the minds of Pacers fans because Lance brought so much energy to the team; he played very hard. However, I have a hard time believing anyone will miss his “antics” on the court, re: his attitude issues. If C.J .Miles and Rodney Stuckey can collectively make up for the loss of Stephenson, this quickly becomes a moot argument.
Tim Sartori: Pretty badly. Lance was one of few creators on an already terrible offensive team. Defense at perimeter positions in the league is less important than at the big positions, and can be replaced, but shooting guards who can create for themselves and other are a rare commodity these days.
Jonathan Washburn: Not as much as you might think. I think it’s important to point out that an improved Lance does not equate to an improved Pacers team. As Lance improved and began taking shots away from David West and Roy Hibbert, the Pacers actually became an inferior basketball team to what they were. Replacing him with C.J. Miles, a lower usage player that is a better pure shooter might actually not hurt as much as we are projecting.

 

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.

Rettig: The offense will suffer more. But again, can Miles/Stuckey make up for the loss in offensive production via Stephenson’s departure? Is sophomore Solomon Hill going to step into a larger role? Nobody knows if Larry Bird is done making moves in free agency, either.
Sartori: Offense. As I stated above, defense at the shooting guard position is not only less important than offense, but perhaps even easier to come by. Last season, Lance and PG were the only players who could really make plays for others on the team, and having one of those players now gone will likely be very detrimental to the offense.

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?

Young:  C.J. Miles and Rodney Stuckey are relatively nice pieces off the bench in a perfect world, and that’s because I don’t think of Stuckey as “starter talent.”  He’s played on a ridiculously bad Pistons team for countless years, and hasn’t had any winning experience.  Miles, on the other hand, is a veteran in the league that can shoot 40+ percent from the outside.  You want to talk about something Indiana lacked?  There’s a mild fix in the offense, since teams may actually be threatened from the outside now.
Rettig:  More moves could be coming as rumors continue to surface just like every NBA offseason. Bird has already signed 4 players – Miles, Stuckey, Shayne Whittington and Damjan Rudez – so he may also be satisfied with his roster for now. A trade is always possible between now and the deadline in February 2015, but that likely will depend on how certain guys perform once the games matter. I also am not sure Miles is a downgrade from Stephenson… CJ is a veteran in this league and has a smooth lefties’ game. Not as good all-around as Lance, but should still be a nice addition to the team.

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?

Young:  Without Lance — and there’s many opinions on this — I don’t believe Indiana is a top three playoff team in the East.  In the regular season, their constant attention to defense will allow them to win more games and get around the 50-win plateau, but the playoffs are a different story.  You need game-changers.  You need guys that aren’t afraid of taking risks and one that feels comfortable and confident with them.  Indiana lost theirs, so the Cavaliers, Bulls, and Raptors are all better playoff teams.  No.
Rettig: Indy can absolutely make it back to the ECF. The East is wide-open right now. If Kevin Love ends up in Cleveland, I see the East boiling down to the Pacers and Cavaliers, with a healthy Bulls squad and veteran Heat lineup not far behind.

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.

Rettig: Lance is arguably one of the most gifted NBA players still under the age of 25. His ability to take over a game in spurts and bring the home crowd to its feet will be missed most in my mind.

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.

 

 

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Tags: C.J. Miles Indiana Pacers Lance Stephenson Rodney Stuckey

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