Lance Stephenson is blowing up. If you haven't noticed yet, you will. He already was a great defender and role player, but this season he's added the confidence and shooting stroke to put himself in the conversation of the best 2 guards in the league. I know its early, but I think a lot of us that follow the Pacers closely could see it coming. The kid is a Manbeast, physically intimidating but skilled enough to run the offense for stretches. (If you can't tell, I've been driving the Lance bandwagon since we drafted him).
Whatever your views on Lance, you can't deny his production so far this year. He's putting up 16 ppg while leading the team in assists and shooting 50% from deep. (That last number will surely tail off, but points to a future baseline of at least 38% or so, still very good). Players that can score, pass shoot and defend do not come around every day in the League. This leads me to the point of this post: Lance 'bout to get PAAAIIIIID.
The reality of the situation, if Lance continues playing anywhere close to his current level, is that he's going to get a substantial contract. Luckily, we own the Bird rights to him, so we have some leverage even though he will hit the market as a restricted free agent. Additionally, he really wants to stay in Indy, given that Larry Bird has basically adopted him. (I want a 1 jersey personalized with "Bird Jr." on the back). For those of you who think we can keep Lance for cheap, let me remind you that DeMar frickin DeRozan is making $9.5 million a year right now. I think realistically we are looking at paying Lance at least 9M a year. The question on my mind has been, can we afford that?
With the big money dedicated to Roy, PG and West, we are already committed to 65M next season. Now that takes into account the partially guaranteed contracts of Scola (4.5M), Sloan (1M) and OJ (1M). If the Pacers choose to waive those contracts, they could be looking at about 59M in commitments. The Tax line next year is projected to be about 75M next season with a cap of about 62M.
After looking into this, it actually put me at ease somewhat. The Pacers will have the room under the tax to throw a 5 year, 10M a year deal Lance's way. Amazingly, they might be able to do this while keeping Scola thanks to the healthy projected bump in the tax next year. I do think its safe to say we will have to waive some combination of Sloan, OJ or Scola. Or, ideally, we find someone to take Copeland's 3M deal, opening up space while allowing us to keep those three useful players.
It looks like we will be able to keep Lance doing LANCE things in Indy for the foreseeable future. This is a very, very good thing.