After the Pacers elected not to extend him an $8.7 million qualifying offer, Evan Turner's decision to leave Indiana in search of "greener" pastures with the Boston Celtics was probably one of the more predictable moves of the summer. Averaging 17.4 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in Philadelphia as a starter, the former Ohio State standout's numbers (7.1 points and 3.2 rebounds) took a sizable hit while donning the Blue-and-Gold as a reserve. Transplanted from the league's worst defense to its finest, Turner's inability to fully grasp the Pacers' defensive identity and contain his opponent oftentimes stood out like a sore thumb. By the time the post-season rolled around, Evan eventually found himself replaced in the Pacers' playoff rotation by 35 year-old NBA journeyman Rasual Butler.
Given his tumultuous stay as a Pacer, Turner's search for revitalization as a Celtic is arguably as noteworthy as it was foreseeable. Arriving here as a restricted free agent, Turner was billed not only as a bench scorer but as a possible long-term back-up plan. If Lance elected to pursue another opportunity in free agency - as turned out to be the case - the Pacers would already have a potentially less expensive replacement on their roster. Accumulating numerous "DNP - coach's decision" notations on the team's box scores during the playoffs, any discussion of Turner as a suitable replacement for Stephenson quickly eroded into trade deadline buyer's remorse and pangs of nostalgia for life-long Pacer Danny Granger (who at the time was having his own struggles in LA).
As it turns out, none of the Pacers' various contingency plans at the wing position exactly panned out. Recall that it was not all that long ago that the biggest debate in Pacers-landia was whether Lance or Danny should retain their spot in the starting line-up. Now, Granger, struggling to fully regain his mobility and explosiveness, has inked a deal with the Miami Heat, after being shipped to Philadelphia. Turner, after a disappointing stint in Indiana, has chosen to seek the tutelage of Brad Stevens, and Lance, depending upon what spin one chooses to believe, has decided to take a chance on himself with the Charlotte Hornets.
With the team's leading rebounder (7.2 rpg) and assist earner (4.6 apg) employed by Michael Jordan, the sizable void now needing to be filled on the wing is oddly reminiscent of when the Pacers found themselves reeling with the news that Danny Granger would be sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury. At the time, replacing the cornerstone of the Pacers' offense with the likes of wildcard Lance Stephenson seemed like an alarming proposition. After all, recall that Granger had once been an All-Star and averaged 18.7 points per game the prior season.
Yet, through it all, the Blue-and-Gold not only survived their franchise player's absence they thrived, suiting-up the league's most dominant starting unit in terms of plus/minus through the majority of two seasons and making two consecutive appearances in the Eastern Conference Finals. Now, many are painting the play making abilities of the player known as Born Ready as nearly irreplaceable for the Indiana Pacers.
After mutually parting ways, Lance's skillset will not, and arguably could not, be replicated by Evan Turner. However, just as was the case two seasons ago with Granger, perhaps Stephenson's replacement is already waiting in the wings and conveniently located on Frank Vogel's bench whether via the growth and development of an individual player or by committee.
With more shooting on the roster and Solomon Hill striving for a larger role, perhaps it is slightly premature to label the Pacers one of the prominent losers of free agency. They may not have replaced the combination of Danny Granger, Evan Turner, and Lance Stephenson with greater talent; but, for a team that prides itself on being a balanced attack, they still have the ability to rely on a familiar formula to remain near the top of the Eastern Conference:
Next man up.