May 18, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson (1) drives to the basket against Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Miami 107-96. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

How Much Should the Pacers Spend on Stephenson?

The Indiana Pacers have a huge decision to make on Lance Stephenson this offseason, and there are so many different options that they have. They could allow Stephenson to walk in free agency, or they could try to sign-and-trade him for some value. If they decide they want to keep him, however, it will come at a very large amount of money that the Pacers have to decide if they’re willing to give up.

There have been many reports over the last week or two about how much teams will be offering Stephenson this offseason, but no one knows what type of market he has just yet. His antics in the playoffs of calling out LeBron James could end up hurting him on long-term deals, but then again his talent and potential still will get him a nice amount of money. The Pacers don’t have all that much cap room this offseason to work with, so they have to be very careful about overpaying Stephenson.

Stephenson played in and started 78 games this past season with the Pacers, averaging 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game. He led the NBA in triple-doubles on the season with five, and improved in every single category that he could have improved in. His offense and shooting were improved, his defense was improved, his playmaking ability improved, and his maturity improved as well despite a bit of a step back in the playoffs.

All that being said, the Pacers are very eager to retain Stephenson this offseason if he comes at the right price. The team is likely looking to get him back on a deal worth around $8-9 million per season, and that is the type of price tag that they should bring him back on. If another team offers him a deal at $10 million or more per season, the Pacers need to move on and find another shooting guard for next season.

It would be difficult to see Stephenson walk in free agency, but the Pacers cannot afford to get locked into overpaying on yet another long-term contract. They have already made that same mistake with George Hill and Roy Hibbert, and they simply don’t have the cash to do that with Stephenson. Stephenson has the potential to become a star in the NBA, but he also has the potential to see a big pay day and become a much different player with less effort and energy. The Pacers have an extremely difficult decision to make this offseason, but Larry Bird knows what the team can and can’t afford to spend.

Tags: Indiana Pacers Lance Stephenson

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