Indiana Pacers: Is Lance Stephenson now a Viable Option?

Indiana Pacers, Nate McMillan (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Indiana Pacers, Nate McMillan (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

In the wake of Jeremy Lamb’s injury, there have been some cries from the fans for the Indiana Pacers to bring back an old friend, but is he the right choice?

The news about the severity of Jeremy Lamb‘s knee injury came early Monday afternoon via Shams Charania: a torn ACL, torn meniscus and knee fracture. His season is over and his minutes now need to be filled. The Indiana Pacers have several guards that can fill in some of those minutes, but both T.J. McConnell and Aaron Holiday are undersized if they try to fill minutes at the two. The buy-out market has been rather scarce for guards, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t options.

It was recently reported by Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that Lance Stephenson was hoping to make a return to the NBA. Stephenson has been playing in China this season and has been absolutely taking it to the CBA. Over 29 games, the former Pacer averaged 26.7 points and 7.4 rebounds on 52.2 percent shooting from the field. Of course these are inflated numbers from a lesser league, but it does show he still has something in the tank.

Stephenson has always been beloved by Indiana fans and the announcement drew many to call for the Blue and Gold to give him one more shot (myself included). This may have been a quick call to arms, but now following the Lamb injury, it may be something they should actually look into.

The Pacers only bench option with some size to fill the newly vacant minutes is Edmond Sumner. While a solid defender, the 6-4 Sumner’s offensive game leaves something to be desired. In limited action, his offense rating is a ghastly 99 which is well below the league worst Golden State Warrior’s 103.9 rating. He’s a limited passer and is a career 28.3 percent 3-point shooter. This all doesn’t combine to make a good case for more meaningful minutes.

Stephenson would bring even better size (6-6 and 230 lbs) and playmaking to the same spot in the rotation. Last season’s 37.1 percent from deep with the Lakers may have been a outlier (he only shot 30 percent in China), but when attempting less than three long distance shots per game, the low percentage wouldn’t be as big of a problem.

What could be a problem is the stagnation Lance brings to offenses at times. His offensive rating hasn’t outpaces his defensive rating since the final two seasons of his first time around with Indy. Since then, he has a 96 offensive rating compared to a 108 defensive rating over the course of 298 games. Realistically the defensive score isn’t bad (only nine NBA teams have sub-108 defensive ratings this season), but again that offensive number is even lower than Sumner’s.

But the main point should be Indiana is trying to replace Lamb’s production and size. Aaron Holiday has shown this season that he can both score and facilitate the offense when called upon, but forcing him to defend bigger guards while playing alongside McConnell could be troublesome. And putting Sumner in important games when he hasn’t shown he can handle it, could be equally problematic.

Next. What the Loss of Jeremy Lamb Means. dark

Bringing in Lance would not mean he should be in the regular rotation, however heartbreaking that may be to some. His intangibles could prove to be extremely valuable. He has become a journeyman, even being forced into a year in China before the age of 30, but he has been there on a title contender before. He has seen all corners of the league and knows this could be a final shot. He knows the Indianapolis faithful still love him. The keys are keeping expectations in check and creating an open roster spot.