In just his third year, it finally appears Stephenson will get an opportunity to see if he can utilize his much-hyped talent to make a positive impact for the Pacers off the bench. As I mentioned after watching the Pacers scrimmage on Friday night, Stephenson's presence on the court was apparent as he looked to make plays.
Instead of playing point guard, Frank Vogel has Stephenson running as the second unit shooting guard which takes the responsibility of initiating the offense out of Stephenson's hands and puts him in position to make plays once he gets the ball in his hands.
"He's not a two, like a Ray Allen, Kyle Korver kind of two," Vogel said about Stephenson. "He's more of a ball handling two. So he'll either be in position to feed the post or to be involved in pick n' rolls."
That's what Stephenson did in the scrimmage, after getting the ball on the wing, he was able to break down the defense and get the ball in the lane where he could then look to pass or finish. He also has a more confident outside shot when he has the space to take a good shot with his feet set, without rushing to release.
Stephenson should skip the contested outside shot since he has the ability to go by a tight defender. Then when he's open, fire away. Playing smart will keep Stephenson playing and also giving the Pacers second unit a key playmaker demanding the opponent's attention.
Defense remains a work in progress which Vogel admits is the area Stephenson needs to cntinue improving to become a complete player.
"He's working hard on using his physicality without fouling, which has been a big improvement," Vogel said about Stephenson's progress at the defensive end. "He's improving with his weak side but he's still gotta grow and that just comes with live reps and playing time."
After a few days of training camp, it appears Stephenson will get that playing time needed to continue improving.