I have some thoughts on the Lance Stephenson PG experiment that I wanted to share. Since this is more of a rant based on personal opinion, I thought the fan posts would be a better venue than a front-page article.
First of all, let me say that I think Stephenson was a great value at pick #40, and I'm very excited to have him on the Pacers' roster for the foreseeable future. My issue is with the idea of him playing point guard and the way this has been discussed on this site and several others.
I understand the difficult situation the Pacers' are in with regards to the point guard position. My idea of re-committing to T.J. Ford was met with a lot of discouragement, and reports on A.J. Price's recovery have been far and few between. By default Stephenson may end up playing significant minutes at point guard this season. In my view this is a mistake and not something Pacer fans should be excited about.
Since Stephenson's performance for the Pacers' summer league team he has begun to be referred to as a point guard. Here is a recent example for ProBasketballTalk.
Lance Stephenson, a rookie, will get his shot. But he's a rookie and more of a scoring point guard than an assist man who should be at the head of a running system. - Kurt Helin
I hate to be a contrarian, but I profoundly disagree with the statement that Stephenson is a point guard. He's not. He played shooting guard exclusively throughout his AAU, high school, and college careers. The sum total of his experience as a designated point guard is the four games he played with the Pacers' summer league squad. This is not to say he can't make the transition, but let's not delude ourselves.
Whenever Stephenson is discussed as a point guard option for the Pacers he is described as inexperienced. I don't think this situation really does justice to the situation. Any rookie point guard would be considered inexperienced. Stephenson is a shooting guard being asked to play point guard. This goes beyond just inexperience at the pro level.
Again, I am not saying that Stephenson can't contribute as a point guard, but he isn't and shouldn't be labeled a point guard right now. Secondly, I am a little more skeptical of the merits of him playing point guard. There is no doubt that Stephenson is capable of bringing the ball up the floor for the Pacers' next season. There is no question that he can attack the basket and draw fouls. He has the potential to be effective with the drive and kick. However, there is a lot more to being a point guard than that. Can he run the pick and roll? Can he hit open jumpers? Can he display the leadership required by this position? Can he direct his teammates to the right spots at the right times? Can he balance looking for his own shot and creating for his teammates? Can he defend opposing point guards?
After his strong performance during summer league play, a lot of comparisons were made to Tyreke Evans. From my perspective these comparisons are based solely on the physical strength he displayed in attacking the basket. In 4 summer league games this season Stephenson averaged 2.6 Ast/40 and 4.8 TO/40. Last season in 5 summer league games Evans averaged 5.6 Ast/40 and 5.6 TO/40. Stephenson played shooting guard exclusively in his one season at Cincinnati. Evans began his lone college season as a shooting guard but transitioned to point guard a few games into this season. This gave him between 20-30 games of experience as playing point guard under former NBA coach John Calipari before leaving for the NBA. Their college averages are similarly different. Stephenson averaged 3.5 Ast/40, Evans 5.3 Ast/40. Despite any similarities in physical profiles they are very different players.
In addition, I added some quotes from Stephenson's Draftexpress profile:
The biggest issue here is Stephenson’s decision making. He settles for bad shot after bad shot, in spite of miserable percentages and open teammates. He seems to lack any sort of understanding of shot selection. Even when his shots were not falling, he forced the issue and, if his teammates sought their own offense, he tended to pout and fade into the background. This is likely the primary cause for concern from NBA scouts, as Stephenson has never really shown the ability to play team-oriented basketball and could certainly have issues adapting to a situation where he’s simply a role player. He must improve his willingness to find the open man, though, as his tunnel vision often results in offensive fouls and untimely turnovers.
On the defensive end, Stephenson did a decent job at Cincinnati, but his lack of lateral quickness limits his potential in this area at the next level.
Just to remind, I like Stephenson, I just like him a lot less as a point guard. He has some undeniable NBA skills, but they are mostly in the realm of scoring. The Pacers were horrible offensively last season, and the roster really lacked players who could create their own shot. This is Stephenson's real strength and in my opinion is the place where he can most help the team. I would like to see him come off the bench next season as a shooting guard, looking to score. He obviously can improve his shot selection and work on finding open teammates off penetration; but I would rather the coaching staff help him to maximize his existing strengths than learning a new position the requires him to curtail some of what he does best. Especially when his existing strengths address a specific team need.
I understand that the situation might not allow it, but I think Stephenson and the Pacers' will be much better off if they can get by with Ford and Price at point guard and let Stephenson come into the game focused on scoring, not creating for others.