Pacers Salaries Series: Which Lance Stephenson are we getting?

SACRAMENTO, CA - JANUARY 24: Paul George /

In this series, 8p9s writer Tony East breaks down the contract situation of each Pacers player. In this edition, we’ll look at Lance Stephenson, a player with a unique past and confusing future.

Pacers fans and analysts are probably the worst people to objectively evaluate the basketball talent of Lance Stephenson.

From 2010-2014, Lance was a fan favorite. Even on teams with Paul George and Danny Granger, fans still adored Stephenson for his antics and stifling defense. His offense, while exciting, was mostly just okay, but his ability to guard anybody 1-4 successfully made him an asset to the team.

Then he left Indiana, and it all fell apart. In the last three seasons, he has played for six different teams. He has not been traded that many times, he got cut that many times. In Charlotte, he shot a dismal 37 percent from the field. In his many other stops on 10-day contracts, he never left enough of an impression to stay. The thinking on Stephenson went from an above average player on both sides of the ball to a player who is on the fringe of the NBA in terms of ability.

Then he returned to Indiana.

He only played six games with the Pacers, but they were much better than he had been. Stephenson had his best defensive rating since 2015,  and he was able to play almost 20 minutes every night. He filled in nicely in the vacant minutes created by Rodney Stuckey‘s departure and fans adored him again with fond memories of the early 2010’s.

His energy and size let him have reasonable success getting to the rim with the Pacers. The Bucks fall victim to his crossover here, and he hits a floater over all six-foot-eleven of Greg Monroe:

He can defend, and off the bench, he can do things like that with the ball. His salary reflects his contributions fairly well.

2017-18 season

Lance will happily make $4,180,000 in the upcoming season and carries a cap hit of the same amount. After his struggles to consistently make a roster over the last few seasons, he will be happy having guaranteed money for the entirety of the upcoming season.

He did not have a large enough sample of minutes to definitively say whether or not he is worth that much money or not, but it’s a low salary in the grand scheme of things, so it is not a big deal if he does not live up to his salary figure.

2018 summer and beyond

Lance has a team option at $4,360,000 next summer. It is fairly simple for Lance. If he can prove he can be a valued member of the rotation, he will be brought back on that cap figure. If not, he will be gone. It is that simple. Hopefully, amidst a contract year, lance can be inspired to work hard and he can contribute every night.

Prediction time

Given that Stephenson’s salary is so low and he is a fan favorite, he will probably be back for the 2018-19 season. Hopefully, he can get close to the 2012 Lance that fans know and love. If he does, he will outperform his salary and be very valuable to the team in the coming years.

Next: What is Domantas Sabonis's ceiling?

I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely hoping for 2012 Lance Stephenson.