Now that the biggest NBA free agent is off the market and heading to Cleveland, there are only a handful of viable options left for teams looking to make big splashes and big changes.
With Carmello staying in NY and K. Love’s landing still uncertain, the next biggest playmaker available is Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson.
Out of NYC, he played just one season with the Bearcats in which he was named Big East Player of the Year, but the Bearcats missed out on the Dance and had to settle for an NIT appearance where they lost in the 2nd round. Lance went on to be drafted by the Indiana Pacers, where over the last 4 years, he has developed into a talented all-around player at the professional level. This past season he averaged 35 minutes, almost 14 points, 7 rebounds, & close to 5 assists per game. Only four NBA players averaged at least 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game last season; Stephenson was one of them. (Nicolas Batum, Kevin Love and Kevin Durant were the other three – that’s pretty good company!)
While he lifted the UC program for a year, some in the NBA wonder if he is worth the risk. Whether you like him or not, he’s proven to be one of the rising stars of the NBA right now. Where he goes from here is up to him.
This past NBA post season, Lance Stephenson was in rare form (especially in the series the Pacers played against the Heat). Building up to that series, the Pacers were arguably the most bipolar team in NBA history. They started the season on fire as the best team in the Eastern Conference, some were even calling them the best in the league. Mid season hit and they struggled to string competitive games together. Roy Hibbert hid from the ball, and nobody else could make a shot. Yet, they still limped into the post season with a #1 seed and even regained some momentum and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
In the NBA playoffs spotlight, Lance engaged in some tomfoolery. From trash talking, chin slapping, and even ear blowing (was Lance whispering in your ear, Lebron?), he drew criticism from Larry Jo Bird, the team pres! But does that negate his upside as a player? I don’t think so; he was absolutely brilliant at times during that Heat series.
And if there was anyone that was going to try and get inside Lebron’s head that series and mess with his game, it was going to be Lance. He’s never backed down from a challenge. Not in Clifton, not in Indianapolis, and certainly not in Miami-Dade County. Lance is a tenacious defender that can disrupt a team’s game plan and flow. On offense, he’s an explosive player with big star potential. I think he’s definitely worth the risk and Indiana better do whatever they can to lock Lance up. Otherwise, there are a handful of other teams out there that would love to have him.
Guest Contributor: Bryan Shelley